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Art Plus by AND Lab Pte Ltd, China

AND Lab crafted the space of this Children’s Performing Art & Education Center in Beijing, for the young ones, aged 3 to 12. The centre features education programs including a theatre stage for children’s performance, classical ballet and modern dance plus musical instruments section.

Designed by AND Lab Pte Ltd

Photography by Jonathan Leijonhufvud

We approached the design like a micro-masterplanning and micro-architecture project for the children. We had the image to create an Art Village, filled with random huts of different shapes and sizes containing different programs. Children can roam freely exploring the huts with different activities inside while in between their lessons.

As children security has been an issue in schools and education centers in China, we designed a threshold at reception with double doors. So that first-time visitors can enquire at the reception without getting in contact with the children. The second door is controlled by electronic lock at the reception counter.

The existing ceiling space is about 5 meters. If we build classrooms of full height walls, it will give the children a high wall prison-like atmosphere. So we make each classroom like a small hut to bring down the scale.

Each hut is a self-supported light-weight steel structure with full glazing to allow light to comes in.

The heating and cooling air-conditioning is a challenge for the huts at first as the roofs of the huts are away from the slab.

However, we later realized this hut typology offering more flexibility in air-conditioning the ‘village’. The classrooms and the ‘village’ are not designed in the grid fashion. With the hut typology, we now can easily supply air-conditioned air by soft ducts from fan coil units to diffusers in the huts without major re-locating and re-ducting the fan coil units.

Sound insulation is especially important in this project.

The classrooms are arranged as detached huts to prevent material borne sound transmission through vibration. The walls of the hut are sandwiched walls with sound insulation wool inside. The sound insulation performance of the hut is further enhanced with double layer tempered glass partition.

Children are easily distractible.

In order for the children to concentrate well on the class, the client requested us to use opaque walls for the classrooms.

Surrounded by opaque wall may give prison cell-like atmosphere to the children. So we counter-proposed to client to have the opacity at certain height. We achieved it through a gradation film onto the glass.

It is a free plan and classrooms are not arranged in grid fashion. Instead of linear lightings, we decided to use point lightings. A seemingly random placement of ‘stars’ then illuminates the indoor sky.

Hygiene and cleanliness is important for children. We use a plant based washable flooring called Marmoleum, which can be heat welded together. This will eliminate the chance that dirt and bacteria accumulate at the joint.

To further engage the children through art whilst expanding their imagination, we collaborated with a Beijing-based surrealist illustrator, Alice Lin, to produce a series of murals on the outer walls of the huts to accentuate the “village” feel - merging the art into the space.

A one-way mirror had been introduced for parents to observe the activities inside the centre without disturbing the classes in session.

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