An exuberant spirit of playful characterizes a Czech kindergarten shaped like an assemblage of boisterous houses in bright shades of orange, yellow, green, blue and white.
The firm Architektura, led by David Kraus, designed the 1,280-square-metre Větrník Kindergarten as part of a new development in Říčany, a town of 16,000 located southeast of Prague.
Sports and recreation was a major focus of the brief at the outset, so a gymnasium will complete the project as part of its second phase. But the school itself is replete with features that encourage exploration and physical activity.
This integration of play into the very program of the architecture reflects another focus of the project – the needs of the children who will in large part grow and develop within these vibrant premises. “The children themselves were essential – their games, movement, vision, and scale,” explain the architects. (In perhaps a sombre tone, the firm contrasts this childlike spirit, one of “spontaneity, disorganization, unpredictability, purity, curiosity, optimism” with the sentiment that all of these traits are “unburdened by the bitterness of life.”)
This focus is reflected in the way the building’s mass is divided into several parts: The main, white cube features all of the basic functions, including classrooms, offices and the main entrances and exits of the school. The pitch-roofed, colour-coded structures are adjoined to this main structure and serve as breakout play spaces for the learning zones. They feature a whimsical cladding and triangular windows that cast interesting light and shadow patterns throughout the interiors.
One of these recreation areas spans the two stories of the entrance atrium. Dividing the double-height space is a “spider web” where kids can jump up and down, suspended by the rope lattice between the two floors. Massive tree branches anchor this play feature; they touch down on the main floor, which is used for theatre performances and exhibitions.
Altogether, the Větrník Kindergarten — one of several exceptional new public schools in the Czech Republic — shows what can be achieved when you put the needs of children at the core of a project that is meant to help them evolve their best attributes.
Designed by Architektura, the Větrník Kindergarten makes play a central component of the building form.