Nursery and Kindergarten.
part of Shalom educational complex
clientSHALOM Organization of Jews in Bulgaria
usersToddlers, children, teachers, staff and community members
The new Shalom kindergarten and nursery will follow the principles of Reggio Emilia educational philosophy. This approach focuses on the potentials and talents of the children and the “hundred languages” they communicate with.
The learning environment is considered the third teacher and is extremely important; thus it needs to embrace these principles and translate them into an inspiring and motivating mixture of different spaces. It should stimulate curiosity and experiential learning.
During the ideation workshops with the community several challenges regarding the kindergarten building stood out:
- How might we provide the most suitable spaces for individual groups yet keep them together?
- How might we enable teachers and parents to have a calm and peaceful experience at kid’s drop-off and pick-up?
- How might we ensure free space for meaningful activities with kids following the Reggio Emilia philosophy?
The Nursery: The Very Best from the beginning
Our goal with this design was to create an environment that fosters exploration, autonomy, and collaboration from the earliest age. The Nursery location on the first floor of the Kindergarten building at the heart of the playgrounds - reflects the Reggio Emilia philosophy's emphasis on the integration of indoor and outdoor spaces.
Parents and children are greeted in the foyer, where the seamless transition from home to Kindergarten begins. This space serves as a welcoming area with a dedicated stroller parking, and ensures a smooth and organized handover process. It flows into the Nursery little gym, equipped with railing for walking and climbing, where the toddlers make their first steps.
Each group has their separate Changing room and from there, they move to their Playroom, where we designed every detail to promote free play, movement, and creativity. The room offers ample space for exploration, featuring separate areas for play, movement, eating, and creative work. We incorporated a variety of stimulating elements, including a pikler's triangle, busy boards, mirrors, swings, and a ball pool. The carefully selected materials encourage children's sensory exploration, motor development, and imaginative play, all central to the Reggio Emilia approach. Recognizing the importance of autonomy and practical life skills, we incorporated a serve counter for food delivery. This feature enables even the youngest children to independently pick up their plates and learn how to serve food themselves, fostering a sense of responsibility and self-sufficiency.
Safety and supervision are key: large windows between the bathrooms and playrooms ensure that teachers can maintain a constant visual contact with the children, so that everyone is calm and secure.
The Kindergarten: a place for young explorers
Our goal when designing the Kindergarten interior spaces was to provide suitable spaces for individual groups, while giving them the opportunity to be together – for holidays, birthday parties and other important community events.
The Kindergarten adheres to the principles of the Reggio Emilia Philosophy in creating an environment that fosters exploration, creativity, and collaboration. Spanning three levels it features a range of carefully designed spaces.
From the very entrance, the visitor can see the centerpiece of the floor: the art room - a dedicated space for art classes serves as a hub for imaginative play, social interaction and gatherings. This versatile space is equipped with mobile modular tables of various heights, abundant storage for essential tools, sinks at different heights. A special place for toddlers - the cave - is where they play and can have a break. The shared space continues this creative area with a large exhibition space and an illuminated wall that spans across the whole area and enables exploration and understanding of the different shapes and colors.
A medical office, and a small meeting room for teachers and parents, as well as a playroom are situated on this floor. Moving to the second level, there are two playrooms for the kindergarteners, two Preschool classrooms and a small gym for sports and theatrical performances - a shared place for the entire building. Finally, on the third level, administration offices, a teachers' room, as well as spaces for psychologists, speech therapists, and resource teachers are shared between the School and the Kindergarten.
Each group within the Kindergarten has its own changing room, playroom, and bathroom. The changing area provides a space for outdoor shoes and clothes, with podiums at different heights ensuring that the changing of clothes of the small children is convenient for the teachers. The changing rooms are connected to the playrooms and bathrooms. The highlight of the bathrooms is a free-standing sink at different heights that encourages independence in the toddler’s hygiene practices and also play.
We divided the playroom into two zones, separated by a thick curtain: a calm and an active area. The calm area features a podium on two levels with retractable beds to ensure maximum space for activities and play when it’s not bedtime. The centerpiece of the room is the Treehouse: a focal point for climbing, play and body movement. The active area is equipped with separate tables for art and eating, as well as a soft corner for reading. Busy boards and mirrors engage children with different textures and forms and provide a means for exploration. A serve counter facilitates food delivery, enabling children to take their food portions independently.
The Preschool is situated on the second floor and is well connected with the school foyer, canteen, and art room on the first level. The Gym and Library are conveniently located nearby on the second level. The Preschool consists of two groups that share a living room, fostering unity and shared experiences. The living room serves as a space for meals, study sessions, and celebrations, while the changing rooms open up to this shared area, offering lockers, shoe dryers, mirrors, and an exhibition space for art pieces.
Folding doors allow the space to function as a whole or be divided when necessary. Each preschool group has a sleeping area similar to the Kindergarten, utilizing a two-level podium for beds, which can also be used for presentations and playtime. A thick curtain separates this area and adds a dramatic touch to theatrical performances. The study space incorporates elements from the school's learning studios, including a large white wall for writing and drawing, pegboards with essential tools, and mobile tables and chairs. The Preschool design aims to facilitate a smooth and seamless transition for children between the Kindergarten and School, promoting their growth and development.
Mana studio – visualizations
IPA – architectural design