In the north of the Czech Republic, you’ll find the small town of Vratislavice nad Nisou. It may not be a place that many people have heard of before, but an innovative new kindergarten there could very well change that.
The Nová Ruda school was originally built to accommodate the town’s growing population, comprising part of a proposed residential development close to a secondary art school. By working the kindergarten into the development, the planners hope that the area will soon blossom into an energetic community within a community.
From the onset of the project, principal architect Petr Stolín knew the school would have to have a small footprint. Indeed, the completed Nová Ruda only takes up 9,849 square feet, so to make it seem larger and brighter, Stolín opted to split the mass of the building down the middle to create an inner courtyard. He then decided to wrap the entire thing up in a transparent cloak. From the outside, only the solid forms of the classrooms and facilities can be seen, allowing students and staff to walk around the premises in relative privacy. Play and rest spaces are located on the lower levels, with two 25-desk classrooms, a 30-seat dining area, and rooftop terraces above. Both classrooms have skylights and interior windows overlooking the playgrounds.
By working in elements like the fiberglass façade, large windows, and lights of various colors, Stolín has truly played up the role of light at Nová Ruda. On top of that, the windows’ orientation makes for unexpected relationships between spaces, giving children and staff quirky views to both the courtyard and the world around them. These elements of fun in the kindergarten’s architecture are great for appealing to the children’s sense of wonder and adventure , but more importantly, they provide them with a refreshing learning experience.
Stolín did not want to design a typical school with an adjacent yard contained in a fence — though it’s not like he had the space to do so anyways. Instead, he flipped the concept of standard school design by putting the play areas at the center and then surrounding them with the learning spaces. Since recess is likely to be the best part of the day for most schoolchildren, the kindergarten’s architecture reads like a physical representation of how we use their desire for play as a way to teach them about themselves and getting along with one another.
The opening of a new school is always a milestone achievement for a community because it marks the beginning of a promising future. After all, each child who is educated there will grow to provide value to that community. The inverse of this is also true when a community closes a school, because it’s a sign that the present has been prioritized over the future. That’s why building educational facilities where children can learn in encouraging environments should always be celebrated.