Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR

Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR

Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR - Exterior Photography

Text description provided by the architects. At the beginning of 2022, as one of the youngest design teams, we participated in the “100 Campus Renewal Plan” organized by Nanshan District, Shenzhen and renovated Birongwan Kindergarten. The construction was completed in just 40 days of summer vacation, and the campus has totally changed to a new look after renovation.

Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR - Exterior Photography, Windows, Facade, Cityscape

01 Flexible design strategies. The “100 Campus Renewal Plan” has both the design difficulties of educational projects and renovation projects, which is limited by not only the short construction period and the strict requirements of building codes, but also the original condition of space and structure. The epidemic made us unable to go to Shenzhen for surveys during the entire design process. We could only rely on incomplete original drawings and a large number of photos and videos to understand the site information. Therefore, at the beginning of the project, we realized that it’s necessary to comprehensively predict various constraints and construction difficulties in terms of design strategy, so that we can quickly figure out where to put effort on. And we also considered flexibility of design in advance to deal with on-site data errors and various problems that might arise during construction, so as to resolve the uncertainties of remote work.

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Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR - Interior Photography

After years of use and reconstruction, the external form of the main building was out of proportion, the volume was chaotic with unpleasant color, and there were also many problems of interior space. In addition to the safety problems of infrastructure such as water, electricity, and fire protection, the kindergarten teachers raised many spatial problems. For instance, the glass shed on the second floor outdoor platform with a fragile structure could hardly prevent falling objects, the multi-function room had an illegal interlayer which was not only dangerous but also made the space not high enough for indoor basketball lessons, the walls between corridor and classrooms led to low utilization of corridor space and further reduced the insufficient lighting of the classroom, etc.

Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR - Interior Photography, Windows, Lighting
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To work efficiently under the pressure of tight design schedule, we tried to avoid responding to all these requirements one by one. As we found every interior space that needs renovation were connected to the façade, we proposed to integrate them by redesigning the façade. Such a design strategy greatly reduced the communication cost at early phase, allowing the kindergarten to understand the architect’s design intention from a macro perspective, thereby accelerated the whole design process.

Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR - Interior Photography

02 Rebuild the elevation. Before the renovation, the facade had chaotic window openings, messy partial additions and air-conditioning outdoor units. Although the original facade with blue-orange paint colors was unsatisfying, it had a beautiful meaning. As banyan tree is the most important part of kindergarten’s culture, we were inspired to integrate banyan tree into the new concept of façade renovation. We changed the main colors of the façade into dark brown and dark green symbolizing the banyan tree, and also adopt orange color that symbolizes sun as embellishment.

Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR - Interior Photography

In order to improve indoor lighting, we changed the narrow windows on the façade of the room to large round and arched windows and installed reflective panels outside the classroom windows on the southeast façade. On the northwest facade, we expanded the window openings of the corridor to the limit, and applied louvers, air-conditioning hoods, and verandas on the first and second floors platforms, which together form several horizontal green lines across the entire facade just like cascading banyan trees. The attached façade components make full use of the horizontally expanded volume of the building itself, and simply integrate the chaotic appearance. The multi-function room’s round window with orange frame looks like the sun rising from the shade of trees, becoming the most eye-catching element on the main facade.

Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR - Interior Photography, Stairs, Chair, Handrail

We replaced the glass shed on the second-floor platform with a new steel structure. The lightweight polycarbonate sheet roof filters direct sunlight and reduces the risk of falling objects with its own resilience. The soft yellow EPDM floor can not only protect the safety of children in daily outdoor activities, but also enhance the brightness of the indoor corridor through light diffuse reflection. The solid wall between the platform and the corridor were replaced by glass floor-to-ceiling doors and windows, which not only introduce the scenery and sunlight into the building, but also connect the indoor and outdoor, attracting children to explore on the outdoor platform spontaneously.

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03 Under the vault. As the largest indoor gathering space in the kindergarten, the multi-function room has a height of 5 meters after demolition of the illegal interlayer. Although the space can meet the requirements for indoor basketball class,it is too high for children and lacks sense of security. Therefore, we designed the ceiling as a huge vault, which not only ensures the height of basketball activity, but also creates a comfortable sense of being wrapped by the space. The shoulders of the vault are also designed to hide the messy heating and ventilation pipes.

Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR - Interior Photography, Windows
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The round holes set on both sides of the vault can not only allow the sound waves to pass through the ceiling and be absorbed by the orange sound-absorbing panels on the wall behind, which solves the sound echo problem caused by the arch surface, and also serves as air-conditioning outlets. Besides, the orange round holes are visually related to basketball or sun, which brings active atmosphere to the space. Therefore the design of ceiling simultaneously deals with various issues such as space, psychology, acoustics, equipment, aesthetics. Cooperating with the vault, the wooden floor is turned up to form wainscot and niches and strengthen the sense of spatial envelopment. As the windows at both ends of the space bring plenty of natural light into the interior, the multi-function room becomes the “tree hole” in the story, and is also named  “Warm Sun Hall” by the kindergarten teachers. The combination of pending lamp, floodlights and track spotlights can meet the multi-functional properties of the room and provide different lighting solutions for music and dance performance, meeting and other activities.

Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR - Interior Photography
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04 Shared corrider. Kindergarten teaching does not require fully enclosed classrooms like primary and secondary schools. By removing the partition walls between classroom and corridor, the classroom natural lighting can be improved and the scope of daily free activities for children will be expanded. This idea is in line with the theory of “time shared space” proposed by architect Jure Kotnik who is engaged in the design of kindergartens for a long term. Kotnik’s research pointed out that when the school’s learning, game, and living spaces are opened up as a free plane, children’s self-awareness, learning ability, social skills, and physical fitness can all be improved.

Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR - Exterior Photography, Windows

Based on the theory, we replaced the original partition walls with 5 meters wide glass folding doors in each classroom, seamlessly connecting with the corridors that was seldomly used before, and connecting each floor as a complete large space for children to move freely. Natural light is also allowed to enter the classrooms directly through the corridors from the enlarged façade windows. The walls, floors and furniture below the height of 1.2 meters in the corridor are all made of log-colored materials, forming a children’s scale, warm and comfortable space. Considering the tight schedule, a series of “low-tech” methods were adopted in the design of the corridor: for example, the newly installed lamps’ wire are exposed and routed by wire pipes to avoid opening slots on the wall; or use cantilever light trough to cover old electric wire tray instead of building an integral suspended ceiling; or only heighten part of the handrails to meet safety codes rather than overall demolition and reconstruction.

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After more than a month of renovation, Birongwan kindergarten has a total new look. Not only has it been loved by many children, but also been recognized and praised by parents, the kindergarten and the society. As architects, we believe that the physical environment is also an important participant in children’s learning and growth, and a good educational space will have a positive impact on children’s character and mental development. We hope that more campuses will return from the disciplined space paradigm to the origin of education that cares and inspires in the future, and add warm and bright colors to children’s school time.

Renovation of Birongwan Kindergarten / Studio NOR - Exterior Photography, Facade, Windows

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