08 JULY 2014

Designing For Our Youngest Learners



Downtown Houston boasts a skyline of epic proportions, but amidst all the grandeur sits a small, but influential, project in the heart of the city. The 10,000-square-foot Downtown Houston Childcare Center is located at the intersection of Bell, Clay, Main, and Fannin and provides a cozy oasis in the midst of a bustling metropolis.

The compact building is carefully sited and natural landscape is utilized, requiring minimal water. Engaged learning was the primary design goal, thus the building functions as a teaching tool. A rain chain provides drainage, but also illustrates the properties of water and surface tension in a way that is palatable for children.

The reception desk showcases a unique wrap-around fish tank, located at eye level to immediately engage young students. Corridors are not to just vessels for accessing various parts of the building, but function as activity space containing marker boards and encouraging impromptu, interactive learning.

Moveable furniture allows for flexibility and floor rugs differentiate spaces and provide a variety of learning experiences. The building also boasts numerous sustainable elements including a chilled beam HVAC system that requires much less energy to provide the same heating and cooling effects as a traditional air HVAC system.

Radiant floors are used throughout classroom areas where the intended users spend most of their time, on the floor. Natural materials are incorporated throughout the building. The sloping shed roof and floor-to-ceiling wood window frames take full advantage of the northern light and provide sweeping views. Natural light is prevalent throughout the building and an outdoor playground provides yet another breathtaking view of downtown. The result is a sustainable, modern, urban building that provides all of the comforts of home. 

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