We were commissioned to design a new full-day kindergarten for Jinqiu community in Shenzhen, which can hold 12 classrooms for 360 children. The site is on a rectangular area of 2400 sqm, between high-rise buildings on both of north and south sides, with a city park on the east and a technical school on the west. How to create enough open space protected from noisy environment in such a high-density urban context is the biggest challenge faced by this project. We were originally inspired by children’s paintings collected from a public class we gave to the neighborhood. Their paintings delivered wishes for having hills, tents and grasslands in their future kindergarten.
The main building of Small Hill Kindergarten is a combination of four grand arch tents and three flat terraces. The tents consist of four interconnected arched spaces for various classes, including music, art, crafts, and sports. The north and south sides of each arch are transparent, introducing the surrounding natural landscape into the interior. During daytime, the arched spaces produce a changing light and shadow effect as the sun moves across the sky, creating an attractive maze of light. The terraces are a series of three-dimensional floating platforms, which are connected by long gentle ramps and spiral stairs. Rather than staying inside standardized classrooms, our design encourages children to spend more time outdoors. Especially the round 150-meter running track through arches will become the favorite place for kids.
The steel structure of the building makes the space much lighter and more transparent than a concrete structure. This prefabricated construction method minimizes the disturbance to the surrounding environment while preserving most of the original trees on the site. We applied natural bamboo slabs for inner surface of the arch tent, and developed a special terrazzo mixed with sea sand to make the outdoor floor soft and non-slippery. For the city, a concrete jungle, the small hill kindergarten would also become an ecological urban landscape.