Brightly coloured playrooms connected by an infrastructure of tubes with slides and climbing frames, the Soyoo Joyful Growth Center in ZhengZhou is a dream come true for any child. However, it wasn’t always such a haven for children. Originally the huge cylindrical building was intended to be the city’s new financial center. It was one of three structures, designed by the late Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, that remained dormant and disused 10 years after its conception.
But dormant no more, the building has been reanimated with fresh intentions. Such a huge space offers potential for a truly expansive space of learning. Beijing and Frankfurt-based company Crossboundaries certainly lived up to their name on this project. The play areas in this learning center are based in primary colours with apparatus including climbing frames, ball pits and slides. These areas are connected through an infrastructure that could be likened to a subway system. Tubes cut through the building leading to different floors and areas, whilst being colour coded with themes of knowledge that allow the children to navigate around the building, guided by their own interest.
The Soyoo Joyful Growth Center offers a holistic learning approach with learning centered around play and hands-on experience. Several entrances lead to the lobby, where play areas, a swimming pool and children’s shops can be found. Rooms for art, music, dance, reading and other subjects are located on the second floor,
with further classrooms, as well as a greenhouse, a planetarium and a kindergarten. The top of the structure has been fitted with a running track and is used as a playground.
Whilst the enormity of this center opened opportunities for such exciting concepts, it also posed legislative challenges. Strict regulations for educational facilities were in place, however to create such a program within a large existing structure required a new spatial typology.
Also posing a challenge were creative limitations imposed; the architects were asked to preserve aspects of the external façade so that it would fit in with the neighboring structures. However, the façade was clad in stone and aluminium, a look which the architects felt clashed with the playful nature of the center. Thus the team added a double layer of lightweight ropes that run diagonally between the roof and the ground,
corresponding to the interior colour patterns, whilst keeping the original materials intact.
The center not only reanimates the building itself, but will also bring life back into the surrounding community, with a large plaza at the front for people to mingle and interact. Projects like this highlight the power held by the architect to transform and offer growth to communities.
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