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How can we design to encourage play, comfort & well-being?

Fuji Kindergarten

Marker Tachikawa, Japan
To remove boundaries between the indoors and outdoors Fuji kindergarten has turned its school roof into a circular, endless playground and put nature at the forefront of its teaching with trees growing right through the middle of the classrooms.
Introduction

What is Fuji Kindergarten?

Takaharu + Yui Tezuka Architects
“Architecture is capable to change this world and people's lives. Fuji Kindergarten is one attempt to change the life of children. ”

Takaharu Tezuka, Architect

Physical elements of a school environment can have discernible effects on teachers and learners. In particular, inadequate temperature control, lighting, air quality and acoustics can have cause issues with concentration, mood, well-being, attendance and, ultimately, attainment.

Beautiful and thoughtfully designed spaces establish a positive reaction and relationship between children and school early on, this could have dramatic effects on learning abilities and achievements later on in their career. We need to constantly strive to provide children with the best start in life and design can be a part of this process.

The Fuji Kindergarten was built with children at the heart of its design. When the kindergarten outgrew their old premises, the Principal wanted to recreate a building where design could be a key part of the children's education - he was inspired to work with high class architects to create a school that would inspire children every day.

There are many considered elements to this school's design.

The classrooms in the building have sliding doors that can be kept open for at least two thirds of the year. There are no walls between classrooms, so noise floats freely from one class to the other, from outside to inside. This can be very important as many children get nervous when they're expected to be in a quiet box!

To help instigate face-to-face communication, something key to encourage in an increasingly digitalized world, water wells have been installed, encouraged to be used as informal meeting places to chat.

One of this kindergarten's most unusual features is that it has been designed as a circle, with an endless circular roof that allows the kids to run forever! With skylights on the roof children can express their inquisitive sides, looking up and down to see what their friends are up to.

There is also nature everywhere. Trees with giant safety nets, to stop kids falling through, are used as toys for them to climb, jump and shake. They can even climb to class with a giant tree in the middle of the school used to clamber to the next level.

Every month at Fuji the teachers and kids rearrange the classroom furniture. They filled the school with around 600 very light wood boxes so they can play/rearrange them to their heart's’ content, and are often used as pretend trains!

Due to it's wonderful usability Fuji Kindergarten was named by the OECD as the most outstanding educational facility in the world in 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Intended Outcomes
1392
Views
3 - 5
Age Group
2007
Established
Resources Needed
Considering the main aspects of Fuji Kindergarten: Open Spaces, Background Noise, Circles & Nature all those looking to improve their buildings can consider ways to could improve these areas within their own school. To engage in an architectural design or redesign process, considering costs & timescales are also important. To read more about the design process check out their book "Tezuka Architects: The Yellow Book".
HundrED Criteria
innovativeness
impact
scalability
The innovation for the Tezuka architects is that they are doing what they feel they should do. This building is innovative in that it's custom built school designed to optimise wellbeing.
The building has impact on the children in many ways. There are no social outcasts & autistic children are able to integrate with other children and rarely display signs of their typical symptoms. In terms of physical exercise, their research study showed that six times more games were played on the Fuji Kindergarten Roof compare to a typical kindergarten and the average child in Fuji Kindergarten ran about three miles daily - 8 times more than a normal kindergarten!
The design of Fuji Kindergarten can be used to inspire future schools looking to enhance their learning environments so that they are best suited for their children.
Steps

How do you implement it?

01

Open Spaces

One of the key design features to consider is improving open spaced learning environments.

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When looking at an architectural redesign or improving the learning environment look for ways to create more open spaces and remove boundaries. This could be done with opening doors or using different furniture. 

At Fuji, for example, between April and November, the sliding doors are completely open. The distinction between where outside stops and where inside starts doesn’t apply. There are no walls between spaces, and therefore no boundaries.

There are also only boxes, used as furniture to indicate areas. The principal believes that when you place children in a cage they will try to establish a social hierarchy, and the outcasts get segregated; but when you have no boundaries, there is no need to create such hierarchies.

 

02

Background Noise

Consider what the right level of noise for the learning environment might be.

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In every environment there are ways to consider how the noise in spaces from classroom level, to hallways, from dining halls to play areas affect the learners and staff within it.

At Fuji, they accept more than 30 children affected by autism.

Some of the children have had a tough time in other kindergartens but since they have been transferred to Fuji Kindergarten they behaved little to no differently to other children.

Based on research this seems to relate to background noise. In an experiment where white noise, at a frequency of more than 20 kilohertz is provided, the children no longer show symptoms. This is the kind of background noise that happens naturally at Fuji Kindergarten.

Every childcare room in Fuji Kindergarten is filled with background noise. While one class is learning basic mathematics, another class is playing piano nearby. The children are then selecting information from this noise. It is natural to be exposed to high frequency background noise. 

With open doors and not asking for silence this can be a way to improve noise volume in a school.

03

Circles!

Consider how to create opportunities through design to encourage physical exercise and get children running joyfully.

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Play and exercise are vital parts in the day for children. When considering design find ways to incorporate the element of circles into your play spaces.

When the Tezuka Architects brought their kids to the original kindergarten site, they kept making circles around the chairs. They felt like it was as if they had an instinctive need to do this, like a puppy trying to bite its own tail by running in circles.

After it was noted that children love running in circles this is what Fuji Kindergarten became - a large, one-story, oval-shaped kindergarten, well known to accommodate over 600 children freely running around the oval-shaped roof. 

Carry this design inspiration to your building so that the children could keep running, never knowing when to stop! 

It might even benefit your staff... The principal at Fuji also used to make rounds through each of the buildings, even though the existing kindergarten was not connected in a loop so the Kindergarten is also a circular shape for him, so that he too never knows when to stop!

 

 

04

Nature

Consider how to incorporate opportunities for connection to nature into the building and outdoor spaces.

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Find ways to incorporate nature into the everyday.

At Fuji, for example, three pre-existing Zelkova trees shoot through the architecture and are splendid climbing points for children on the roof.

Could you bring in more succulents, plants and trees to both the indoors and outdoors of your environment?

 

 

Community

What does it look like in practice?

Innovator
Used in
Photo by Katsuhisa Kida/FOTOTECA
The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen | Takaharu Tezuka
Photo by TEZUKA ARCHITECTS
Photo by TEZUKA ARCHITECTS

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Contact

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Takaharu + Yui Tezuka Architects