In an old, residential community in Guangzhou, China’s Tianhe District, Shenzhen–based VMDPE Design has unveiled a much-needed kindergarten that balances learning and play in a bright, serene setting.
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Located on the site of a former granary, Lion International Kindergarten transcends traditional education environments by "building an ordered and interesting interior for exploration," says lead designer Vinci Chan, creative director at VMDPE.
With only some 1,600 square feet to work with, VMDPE transformed a 23-foot-high warehouse that had one faulty, narrow, light-deprived side. Sunlight fills the front of the building, so classrooms were intentionally placed there. The back, a flexible area where kids release pent-up energy by zipping down the slide or unwind with books in one of the cozy reading stations, is illuminated by extended windows.
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Embracing the multi-disciplinary STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) curriculum, the school encourages problem solving, communication, and critical thinking, but doesn’t overlook the importance of freedom, physical activity, and experimental play in early childhood development. To ensure a well-rounded experience, the building is divvied up into specific zones of functionality.
"Inspiration comes from the ‘secret base’ of imagination during childhood days, which is like the structure of an ant’s nest underground, connecting small spaces with small paths but is full of fun," explains Chan.
A dance studio and carpentry workshop on the lower level, for example, are connected via an eye-catching staircase to the rooms devoted to science and arts studies above. A sandbox and toys, an open cooking facility, and a climbing wall provide entertainment and sharpen coordination skills in between lessons.
Conscious design permeates the space, including the power outlets and switches appropriately positioned so that little ones can’t reach for them. Modular, eco-friendly furniture produced off-site is custom0built to reflect the varying heights of different age groups. Lion International Kindergarten, then, is also a place to nurture a budding sense of social responsibility.
Builder: Dongguan City FeiFanYu Decoration Engineering Co.
Interior Design: VMDPE Design