A child-friendly space composed of transparencies and wood
Designed by Dorner\Matt, this kindergarten is part of the parish complex of St. Gebhard in the Vorkloster district of Bregenz, a town in the west of Austria overlooking Lake Constance. In an area of low-rise residential buildings, the bell tower and parish church stand out as both symbolic elements and landmarks of what is an important social center for the district. The buildings are arranged around a courtyard, which has now become a children’s playground. The project is the result of an exercise in architectural composition in which the new building works in synergy with the existing structures and setting.
The kindergarten is a non-invasive addition to the existing complex, its proportions integrating perfectly into its setting. The main façade establishes a visual continuity from ground level, extending the roof line of the adjacent building so that it melds into the roof and string course of the new building. The use of exposed concrete and glazing has also been adopted but reinterpreted through a contemporary lens.
The appropriation of the spaces is gradual, passing through a hybrid space in the form of a covered courtyard extracted from the corner of the main volume. This is where the entrance to the kindergarten is located, which leads to a large atrium and multifunction room. Geometric and linear from outside, the building hides an internal spatial complexity, with the rooms, on two levels, organized around a central void surmounted by exposed concrete suspended walkways connecting the rooms.
There are large windows on both sides of the building, creating strong visual connections between inside and out. Transparency is also a feature of the interiors, with glass partitions allowing light to enter and filter throughout the building. The contrast between light-heavy and hot-cold materials is one of the key principles that informed the design choices. Exposed concrete, which dominates the exterior and the structural elements, gradually decreases as you move into the building, leaving more space for the light-colored wood used for the wall paneling, ceilings, and furnishings, as well as for many of the games and fittings. This combination of materials, the almost square plan, and the high ceilings all contribute to creating a welcoming, protective environment that’s ideal for children.
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Location: Bregenz, Austria
Photography by Bruno Klomfar Wien, courtesy of Dorner\Matt\Architekten