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Nursery „Bärcheninsel“

With a reduced concept in line with the operator’s guidelines, architects Theo Härtner and Kazu Ito created a safe place for learning and play on behalf of Häuser für Kinder GmbH in Stuttgart. The elegant combination of wood and exposed concrete as primary materials is complemented by the acoustic elements from AOS. In a residential part of Stuttgart’s Dürrlewang district, barely visible from the road and hidden by dense clumps of trees, lies the element-i “Bärcheninsel” nursery. In 2016 Stuttgart-based architects Theo Härtner and Kazu Ito replaced the original structure with a new building here designed for 100 children aged between one and six. Anyone who enters the new two-storey building via one of the covered entrances will inevitably find themselves at the “marketplace”, the central area of the nursery that links the building’s two wings and forms the heart of the structure. It is here that children and nursery staff come together to share breakfast and lunch. Adjoining the marketplace are two internal courtyards open to the outdoors. Around the building stretch arcades, which serve both as emergency balconies and as covered outdoor play areas. The wood and steel slats of these arcades are clearly visible from the outside and characterize the façade, acting as a soft skin that absorbs overly strong sunlight. From the inside, they provide a barrier to prevent children from falling. Sliding elements are installed in the slats. The load-bearing structure is based on exposed concrete elements poured into place on site.

The interior has been developed using wood, so the combination of exposed concrete and wood as primary materials is both warm and elegant at the same time. The restrained choice of materials also fosters the educational concept of the private nursery operator, which motivates both children and supervisors to shape the spaces for themselves. Here, the aim is for the architecture to take a back seat and serve merely as an aid to creating the space they want. Aside from the sanitation areas and the kitchen, the new building has not been given any additional ventilation system. All the rooms can be ventilated naturally. Good spatial acoustics and a reduction of the sound pressure level in the rooms result from a suspended acoustic ceiling in combination with acoustic elements by AOS. At the “marketplace”, the Silence Point seating section invites children to enjoy relaxed playtime or serves as a place to retreat to. Supervisors also use this acoustic solution to relax or chat with one another. On the upper floor, 3D absorbers reduce the noise level in the exercise room and add color accents to the exposed concrete at the same time. Real birch trunks form the central point of focus in the so-called “crawlers’” rooms on the ground floor. These light-colored trees convey a sense of protection and comfort and are intended to help the younger children get used to their new environment. The acoustic cylinders hanging from the ceiling harmonize impressively with this unusual atmosphere and are reminiscent of colored lanterns dangling from branches in the forest. The spacious outdoor play area that characterized the complex previously has been preserved – and with it the “island” aspect of the nursery’s name, which means “teddy bear island”. The children who play and learn here are able to enjoy a varied, clear, bright environment that can only help to foster child development.

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