Kindergarten afloat in Beijing

MAD Architects, led by Ma Yansong, has revealed its design for ‘Courtyard Kindergarten’ in Beijing. Located on the site of a traditional siheyuan courtyard that dates back to 1725, MAD’s scheme includes a new building that not only protects the existing buildings but also restores them for use. The design features a dynamic floating roof that surrounds the historical courtyard. While preserving the cultural heritage of the site, it forms a multi-layered urban narrative, where old and new coexist.

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"There is a saying in old Beijing when children are naughty: ‘If you go three days without being punished, the roof will cave in,’” says MAD Principal, Ma Yansong.

Playing on this, MAD envisions the rooftop of the ‘Courtyard Kindergarten’ as a place full of magic – a playful escape for the children that is a symbol of freedom and endless imagination.

Fact File:

Project:

Le Cheng Kindergarten

Location:

Beijing, China

Date:

2017 to 2019

Principal partners in charge:

Ma Yansong, Dang Qun and Yosuke Hayano

Design team:

He Wei, Fu Xiaoyi, Xiao Ying, Chen Hungpin, Yin Jianfeng, Zhang Long, Zhao Meng, Kazushi Miyamoto, Dmitry Seregin, Ma Yue, Huang Jinkun, Ben Yuqiang and Chen Luman

Client:

Yuecheng Group

Executive architect:

China Academy of Building Research

Interior design:

MAD Architects, Supercloud Studio

Signage design:

2X4 Beijing

Landscape architect:

ECOLAND Planning and Design Corporation

Facade construction:

Beijing Jangho Curtain Wall System Engineering Co.

Visualisations:

SAN

Model photography:

CreatAR Images

Unfolding onto the site with a low and gentle posture, the roof transforms the limited space between the various buildings into a colourful playground that functions as the central place for children to engage in outdoor sports and activities. On the southwest side of the roof, a subtly undulating surface of several small ‘hills’ and ‘plains’ creates a high and low terrain, forming a playful landscape.

Below the floating roof, MAD has designed the interior of the kindergarten as an open-concept layout that serves as a teaching space, library, small theatre and gymnasium. The openness of the space offers a free and inclusive atmosphere, and functions as the daily education space for 400 children between the ages of two and five. Positioned adjacent to the old courtyard, the new learning space opens towards the historical buildings. This gives the children alternating views between old and new, deepening their understanding of time and dimension. In turn, the new building has also been realised to respect three, ancient trees on the site. It envelopes them in a way that while preserving their presence, also echoes the existing courtyard space, bringing the outdoors in, and flooding the interior with natural sunlight.

In its entirety, the Courtyard Kindergarten reveals several architectural elements – a modern building from the ‘90s and a traditional courtyard from 400 years ago – that initially seem to be conflicting. MAD’s design retains the authenticity of the original buildings while allowing them to coexist with one another, creating a new kind of interaction between them. The openness and richness of the design allow the children to have an objective and true comprehension of the environment that surrounds them. It offers them an understanding of history and place, and the preservation of nature, bringing inclusiveness between the old and new design – one that adds value to the community.

The Courtyard Kindergarten is currently under construction. It is expected to be completed and functioning in autumn this year.

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