by Jerry ElengicalOct 18, 2022
A multitude of factors add to the interior design of any given space. This is particularly true for educational spaces where one has to consider not only the purpose of such spaces but also the age group of its occupants. Creating a nurturing yet utilitarian space has always been a difficult balance, one which has seen various responses and experiments. City Kids, designed by Barker Associates Architecture Office (BAAO), is a new childhood education centre in Brooklyn, USA that steps away from the Fisher-Price colour scheme and Disney inspired aesthetic and instead looks at neutral tones and intricate details to create dynamic and graphical spaces. The urban preschool also has openable windows to bring light and air in and proposes a calm and more serene environment.
A central double-height space serves as the fundamental nexus of the preschool. All six classrooms open up into this space that serves as a common gathering area. Lit by a large storefront window, the indoor ‘courtyard’ is a visual and spatial interconnector between the classrooms and the city outside. The periphery of the courtyard features a thickened wall that incorporates the reception desk and storage units and cubbies for the kids to use, making this edge a utilitarian element.
The storage, done in wooden finish, is only a few feet high, just enough for preschool children to use. Above these are windows of varying shapes and sizes, some of which are framed in acoustical felt panels. As these walls only start at about half the wall height, it provides a sense of privacy for the kids while still enabling the teachers to freely monitor their wards. The corridor features lockers that are arranged to resemble the city skyline. This visual is further enhanced with the use of the same acoustical felt, that acts as both a graphical element and as a means of reducing acoustical echoes in the corridor.
The interior façade allows borrowed light to enter the surrounding spaces on both levels and provide visual access for children and teachers. The doorways to each classroom are wrapped in the same plank as the flooring. It is a subtle gesture that creates a material continuity between the horizontal and vertical surfaces. Much like the windows looking into the courtyard, the doors feature a combination of hard angles and curved edges. While the frame of the windows and doors themselves are rectilinear, the surrounding wood plank detail features curves.
The ceiling is particularly accentuated with the deep blue colour; while it does not emulate a natural sky, the blue offsets the neutral shades of the other surfaces including the wood floor and the white walls. Pendulum light fixtures of different designs and sizes are suspended at varying heights and create an animated ceiling.
Every surface of the education centre has been designed purposely, and not incidental, including the ceiling. This spatial experience does not end with colour, which is highlighted in the courtyard; with its numerous pendulum lights, the classrooms feature a lighting design layout that does not follow a linear pattern. The ceiling lights, which are circular fixtures, are arranged in clusters along with a more organic arrangement. Interspersed within this arrangement are HVAC outlet ports which are of a similar dimension. The pandemic prompted some ventilation improvements in the form of electronic and ultraviolet light HVAC filters which are also incorporated into the design. Using the existing beam as a guide the false ceiling features curved edges in combination with the angular details. This detail adds to the softness of the aesthetic experience of the preschool.
The after-school program for elementary school students is housed on the second level. Accessed by the stairs at the reception area, this space features specialised classrooms for cooking, theatre, STEM, and movement. A lounge with bleacher seats provides a place for an informal gathering. The addition of these spaces and the neutral tones of the interiors distract from the antiseptic nature of the past two years and perhaps even from the security and check-in points that have now become commonplace.
Name: City Kids Educational Center
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Area: 11,000 Square Feet
Architect: Barker Associates Architecture Office/BAAO
General Contractor: PSG
Structural and Mechanical Engineer: Ralph Albanese