Day care centre, Espoo
Day care centre
ESPOO (FI) - JKMM Architects have made a fun and friendly building for young children.
Despite being a relatively young practice, JKMM Architects have already made a name for themselves with an impressive repertoire that includes the Viikki Church (A10 #27), the Turku Library (A10 #16), the Hämeenlinna Cultural Centre Verkatehdas (A10 #20) and the Finnish pavilion for the 2010 Shanghai Expo, which won the prize for Best Pavilion Design. Many of these buildings include recreational spaces for youngsters. Their latest realized project makes clear that one truly learns by doing.
The building contains a day care centre plus a small medical and training centre for babies and infants. One of its special features is that one section can be used by local residents for meetings, yoga courses and the like. Situated closest to the small car park, it can also function as an independent unit.
The building is on a steep slope and the 30-metre height difference between the street and the top of the bedrock hill required a very clever distribution of indoor and outdoor spaces. The street facade has two levels and the entrance to the medical centre. The entrances to the day care areas are all from the upper level, where playgrounds are situated between the hillside and the upper floor elevation. The upper playground area also had to be made safe for children, so there are high walls to prevent them from falling over the edge.
The JKMM signature is evident in the detailing and design of the attractive playground areas and in the outdoor lighting and partition solutions. JKMM has a lot of expertise on its payroll, and in all of their buildings they have come up with something new and also learned from earlier buildings. The white stuccoed building below the bedrock hill has the look of a small fortress. Inside there are surprises like the conical skylights with artistic motifs. Some inbuilt acoustic wooden fixtures are by the artist Ilona Rista.
The upper level elevation is constructed like bookshelves in wood and glass, and has room for decorative and playful objects to be displayed for the enjoyment of the children, whether indoors or outdoors. The overall atmosphere is warm, owing to the abundant use of wood. A lot of interesting and fun ideas have been put into practice in the entrance and toilet/washroom areas, but nothing is overly cute or exuberantly colourful. On the upper floor there is a pleasantly dark and mysterious corridor area with lots of curved niches for play and enjoyment. The technical fixtures and services are cleverly concealed on this floor and on the lower level, where kitchenettes for warming milk bottles and changing diapers and so forth are hidden behind the soft wall surfaces.
The external architecture is a bit trendy, especially on the public side of the building: a sleek, white facade with randomly placed square windows and openings of different sizes. However, the building has a distinct identity and character of its own, so it is easy to forgive the trendy features. Inside restful, natural colours are spiced up with colour accents in a few smaller spaces; on the whole, the children and their clothes and toys provide sufficient life, and for the more exciting little surprises one must look up to the ceiling or open some doors.
This day care centre, aimed at small children and their university-educated teachers and day-care staff, is one of the most convincing examples of thoughtful and creative design of small public buildings in Finland. Surprisingly, this quality result has been achieved with a very tightly controlled budget.
October | 2011 | Finland | Tarja Nurmi