The maternity wards are busy in hospitals in several European countries – which means a chance for architects in countries like Sweden and Germany to become involved in a whole host of new childcare institution projects. But how to design the best possible childcare institution? It is important to take children seriously as the users of institutions and to create the best possible conditions for them to engage in play and physical activity on a daily basis.
– Children’s architecture is a very specialized field with lots of regulations and need for planning. It requires specialized knowledge of for example safety regulations, but it is playful work which benefits from a playful approach. Good architecture can support children in their development by creating opportunities for practicing their social skills and motor skills, says Nathalie Dziobek-Bepler, who has specialized in children’s architecture since she founded Baukind in Berlin (Germany) eight years ago.
Involve children in the design process
The interview with Nathalie Dziobek-Bepler is part of a new online theme at www.troldtekt.com. The theme from the manufacturer of acoustic solutions focuses on architecture in childcare institutions. It also presents a number of cases describing the successful marriage of good design and superior acoustics, resulting in better environments for children to play and learn on their own terms.
– In our experience, building for children requires different forms of communication than building for adults, at least if we take them seriously as users with independent needs. This means that for the engagement with the users, who spend a part of their lives in our architecture, a suitable form must be found, e.g. in the form of workshops, so that specific needs can flow into the design process, says Professor Jens Ludloff from Ludloff+Ludloff architects (Germany) in the theme.
No universal template
In another theme article, Mille Sylvest – who holds a PhD in environmental psychology and is a partner in the Human Studio consultancy firm – offers her take on good childcare institutions. She makes the point that the design of new institutions should not be based on a universal architectural template.
“It’s important to understand there is no universal – or even national – model for what a good childcare institution should look like. You have to understand the cultures in play in the specific location and design the institution accordingly. Factors like the mix of children, staff culture and degree of affiliation with the local community are important,” she says.
Acoustics play a major role
The institutions presented in the theme include Denmark’s largest institution in Copenhagen, two other institutions in Copenhagen and one in Trondheim, Norway. The theme also focuses on Huset Nyvang in Denmark, where a nursing home and kindergarten have been gathered under one roof. All of the above institutions use Troldtekt acoustic solutions as part of the architecture.
Acoustics play a major role in planning institutions, emphasises Mille Sylvest from Human Studio.
“It’s very important to be aware of noise when building new kindergartens. Noise affects stress levels for both children and staff. No-one can take spending long periods of time in a noisy environment. Of course, people can function in large institutions with concrete surfaces and double-height ceilings, but not nearly as well as they would with good acoustic solutions. Lower energy levels, more sick leave and poorer learning outcomes are the direct results of noise,” she notes.
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