The Early Learning Village in Singapore represents an extraordinary milestone in international pre-school education with a capacity for over 2000 children aged between 18 months and 6 years old.
The brief required this ambitious project to be a model for future schools, providing external discovery play zones, a swimming pool, a multi-purpose hall, and specialist classes for art, music, drama and dance.
The key challenges were to ensure that the significant volume does not intimidate small children, provides a clear circulation hierarchy and creates a building that is essentially playful (fun!) as well as flexible enough to accommodate changing market conditions.
The first sketch was scribbled in January 2014 in response to the fundamental design challenge - how to create a playful scheme that would make a very large building feel small and intimate for its users, namely pre-school children?
The design was developed in our London studio, with weekly video conferences with the local team and monthly meetings in Singapore. Using sketch models to explore the form and layouts the final design emerged after a lengthy consultation process with all the relevant stakeholders allowing construction to commence 18 months after that initial sketch.
The site is bounded by an existing school, an inner-city highway, and woodland with the design being subject to strict Singaporean planning conditions and defined by requirements for generous external play-space per child.
Methods of modular construction were investigated, but as untested in Singapore, we reverted to a traditional concrete frame with cantilevered balconies. Facades are GRC rain-screens with alternating window heights (for small children) while the external balconies have full height glass balustrades. The weather protecting canopies are steel frame trees with ETFE infill panels.
Our design focuses imaginatively on the needs of the children. Space, Light and Time - these are the gifts to the teachers and children of the Early Learning Village. Living walls come to life as shared spaces that children discover and engage with, making this extraordinary building a place where parents and children simply do not want to go home.
In regards to the working detail, one of the key themes of the Early Learning Village is the interface between the outside play space and the internal workings of the classroom clusters. Singapore typically has an all year daily temperature of between 28-32 degrees Celsius and also has a high rainfall every month, so protection from the elements is a key factor to consider.
The external environments are covered by ETFE canopies (a parasol and umbrella) which have a UV protection filter of 84% on the outer skin layer closest to the beating sun. The ETFE pillows, which span between the steel tree structures, also provide an acoustic layer to the external play spaces, helping control the sound created by the children. Interestingly, even though external, the play spaces contain sprinklers for compliance with local fire codes.
There was a great deal of coordination required between the relative trades, an example being the interface solutions between the canopy and the adjacent classroom. Another key decision on the facades was the use of Glass-fibre Reinforced Concrete (GRC) panels which drain to the inside to avoid the prominent staining that occurs on many Singaporean buildings.
Another element is the interface with the Mechanical Air solution. The common approach in Singapore is Fan Coils. We designed, in coordination with AECOM, an integrated air displacement system with low level input at the higher inlet temperatures. This offers a more environmentally-friendly solution and a healthier option for the children.
The ELV stands as a new model in high-density education design. The innovative use of elevated external play-space becomes an inherent feature of the architecture with the stacked ‘clusters’ and projecting canopies creating a playful environment that breaks the overall scale. Greenery, like many of our projects, plays an integral role in the design.
Opened in August 2017, our delight has been the positive response from children, parents, teachers and the operators.
Bogle Architects is an award-winning architecture and design studio founded in 2012 by Ian Bogle. The team consists of a highly creative group of individuals sharing a common desire to design and build progressive, imaginative and innovative architecture. Operating out of studios in London and Prague, and with a further office in Hong Kong, the practice is engaged in a wide range of prestigious international projects. Striving for simple design solutions to resolve the complexity of any project, the practice's philosophy is based on clarity of thought, wide engagement and a collaborative design process in order to realise a common goal. The practice strategy is to be diverse in both location and sector, which in return offers an insight into many different design solutions, enhancing the continually improving offer to clients.
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