Yuecheng Courtyard Kindergarten

MAD Architects
Beijing, China

A kindergarten tries to reconcile architectures of different periods, connecting them in a delicate exercise in coexistence and respect for surroundings.

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The firm MAD Architects was commissioned to design a kindergarten next to an apartment building for senior citizens in Beijing. This juxtaposition of preschool education and elderly care is in keeping with the client’s spirit of fostering ‘intergenerational integration.’ The site features an 18th-century Siheyuan courtyard, an adjacent 1990s replica of it, and a modern four-story building. MAD chose to replace the replica with a new space that would hold the Siheyuan courtyard “in the palm of its hand.” The new space generates a tension with the old court while enveloping it with a delicate, flowing motion

that strikes a contrast with the strict, orderly layout of the historical structure. A floating roof links up several independent spaces and gives one the feeling of having entered an entire new realm. The roof’s undulating topography and the different red and yellow tones of the walls and floors create a sort of Martian landscape that motivates children to run, play, and interact with it and each other. In combination with the ancient courtyard, old trees, and infinite sky, it motivates them to think, reflect, and chase their dreams.

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At ground level, three courtyards were built around the old trees of the original site. They correspond with those of the Siheyuan courtyard and bring natural light and air into the classrooms, while slides and stairs connect the courtyards to the rooftop landscape. Inside, the atmosphere is cozy and bright. Responding to children’s keen sense of scale and comfort, a single aluminum grille hangs from the ceiling, lowering the visual height of the rooms and thus contributing to an overall home-like feel.

Floor-to-ceiling glass walls ensure a visual connection with the old courtyard-house, which is a venue for extracurricular and artistic activities as well as harboring staff offices. The program is distributed in a fluid space. Learning areas are not altogether separated by closed blind walls, but by curving glass dividers that also serve to hold up the roof. The result is a borderless learning environment centered on enriching interaction among children.

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