by STIRworldJul 11, 2023
The juxtaposition of old and new buildings at Tsukushi Nursery School in the city of Fukuyama, within the Hiroshima Prefecture of Japan, depicts the campus’ gradual evolution in harmony with the surrounding neighbourhood over the past four decades. In a more recent stage of this process back in 2012, local firm UID Architects had developed ‘Peanuts’ - a new nursery school building that aimed to create a learning environment which would respond to the needs of impressionable young toddlers. Following the success of this project, the practice was once again enlisted to develop a replacement for the campus’ old dining hall as part of a subsequent phase of expansion that commenced in 2018 with the demolition of houses to the site’s north. Within this context, the new forest-like structure of the Tsukushi Nursery School Foresta Karankoro - the firm’s second intervention on the premises, completed in March 2020, exerts itself as an addition that appears to contradict the established paradigms that had previously governed the school’s growth. However, from another perspective, its galvalume roof, decorative roof turrets, and towering façade arches exhibit subtle references that tell the story of a new beginning, which is a natural progression from what came before it.
Prior to its construction, the existing structures on-site included the main nursery, a multipurpose space, and a shoe storage area, among other buildings. Closely packed into the moderately-sized plot, the school’s architecture was developed with little regard for the interwoven relationships between buildings at the time of their construction. “Yet, paradoxically, they seem to have a good balance. The combination of older and newer buildings - which is uncommon at other schools that are usually ‘scrap and build’ - can create a comforting environment,” mentions Japanese architect, Keisuke Maeda, Founder of UID Architects, in an official release.
Recalling the premise behind the design for the new block, Maeda elaborates, “Instead of creating something similar to the remaining buildings on the premises, I was inspired to design a gradually unfolding masterplan. Within the village-esque nursery that has been built over the years, stories have continued to be woven, and I believe the new structure will create a more dynamic and interactive relationship between the neighbourhood and its surroundings.”
Situated near the base of a mountain, amid lush vegetation, water channels, and blocks of houses, Tsukushi Nursery School Foresta Karankoro was designed as a replacement for the old dining hall, which was struggling to meet the demands of a growing student population while dealing with degrading equipment. The new two-storey structure accommodates a lounge for the staff to unwind and two classrooms for four and five-year-olds - besides the main dining hall designed for 40 toddlers as well as parents and staff.
Maeda explains, “The goal was to create ‘an interactive environment’ where parents and neighbours get together for lunch, birthday parties and other events. For the dining hall, I deliberately avoided designing an open empty space that could be used in multiple ways. Rather, I added structure and order through the use of columns and beams, which add architectural strength.” He continues, “The arrangement of cross-shaped beams and columns in the interior design widens towards the ceiling, ordered in a grid layout at 3.5 m intervals and rotated 45 degrees.”
In this vein, the interspersed columns create a series of bays and clearings, much like tree trunks in a forest. This spatial configuration invites exploration, nurturing the natural curiosity of young children. “Horizontal and vertical visual anchors create a gradual sense of depth, which generates a perception of physical distance,” says Maeda. Criss-crossing beams along the ceiling define a sequence of archways framed by columns, much like ribbed vaults commonly observed in Gothic architecture. A double-height space welcomes visitors into the hall from the entry portal, punched into the expansive glass openings that fill the spaces between the façade arches. The transparency of the façade design engenders a seamless transition between interior and exterior, with strong visual links to the landscape design outside. Winding tables wrap themselves around the soaring columns in the main dining hall, creating intimate little pockets for children to share meals and interact. Towards one end of the space, a curved staircase swoops down from the upper level, which hosts the washrooms, lounge area, and classrooms.
Vinyl tiles and wood are used for the interior flooring, while the columns are clad with cedar plates covered in wood protective paint. Outside, the finishes consist of brick tile, ceramic siding, and lithin paint, which impart a natural wood grain texture to the light beige-toned surfaces. A sense of lightness is prevalent throughout the structure’s various program areas, complemented by a naturalistic aesthetic - typical of Japanese architecture, as well as a strong sense of linear perspective. Maeda concludes, “Since toddlers and adults perceive space differently, there is a distinct way each understands and interacts with this element. Within this structured, yet spontaneous and dynamic environment, I aimed to create a unique space where toddlers can cultivate their imagination and curiosity in a special way.”
Name: Tsukushi Nursery School Foresta Karankoro
Location: Fukuyama, Hiroshima, Japan
Site Area: 923.57 sqm
Built Area: 545.61sqm
Total Floor Area: 782.05 sqm
Architect: Keisuke Maeda / UID Architects
Structural Engineering: Konishi Structural Engineers - Yasutaka Konishi, Takuya Asamitsu, Junpei Sato
Landscape Design: Toshiya Ogino Landscape Design – Toshiya Ogino, Nobuo Kuwaoka, Shota Ogino
General Contractor: DAIWA CONSTRUCTION CO., LTD.
Completed: March 2020