IPSEF Newsletter

New approach to education as “children’s museum” unveiled

A new kindergarten based on a “children’s museum” concept is nearing completion in China.

Designed by international architects Broadway Malyan, the Academy of ASTEM project involves the refurbishment of a private members club in Shanghai’s Songjiang District.

Comprising four floors, the spaces are being transformed into a range of learning spaces, both a mixture of traditional classrooms and activity areas resembling a museum gallery style.

These activity zones are themed in a variety of ways, including an observatory, time tunnel, garden area, city square, beach, cinema and aquarium, which utilises an existing indoor swimming pool on the site.

There are also four spaces inspired by important Chinese inventions; paper, the printing press, gunpowder, and the compass.

Harry Hoodless, director at Broadway Malyan, said: “It has been a really interesting challenge for us to design this school in a way that is both compliant with Chinese codes and also provides something very different to a traditional learning environment.

“Our client really wanted to push what an educational space could be. Their brief very specifically wanted to capture the interactivity and sense of wonder common to museums, and we have tried to replicate this in a number of themed spaces.

“Our design has been guided by six words; making, gathering, learning, exploring, inspiring, enquiring, and we have designed our spaces under the overarching banner of a future city, with spaces designed around exploration, wonder and excitement.”

There will be ten classrooms in total, teaching Grades 1, 2, 3. Other facilities will include a nursery, library and lab. The top floor provides office, meeting space and a staffroom for the teachers.

A double height lobby will welcome visitors and students to the school and a spiral staircase that runs throughout the building forms the main centrepiece.

Chara Yang, who also worked on the project for Broadway Malyan, said that it was also important to reflect the clients branding in the scheme and use a mixture of materials.

She added: “We were limited with what we could do to the outside of the building, so we added a glass canopy to the facade in the shape of a wave, with coloured glass utilising the clients brand pallete. As you move throughout the building, these colours and fluid patterns are replicated in a variety of ways to help guide exploration and inspire learning.

“We have also been playful in our approach to scale, using oversized furniture and sculpture in places, and carefully utilised both natural materials and more technically advanced materials, including digital displays and areas that students can draw and paint on the walls, in an effort to fuse art, nature and technology.”

The Academy of ASTEM is affiliated with China Future Education Group, the education investment arm of CIFI Group, a Hong Kong listed company which is one of the largest residential developers in Shanghai and the surrounding region. Its aim is to create international standard kindergartens with a focus on traditional STEM subjects aligned with the Arts and Humanities.

Harry added: “The client’s aim is for their schools to encourage interaction and to combine a warm, welcoming and caring environment within a formal education setting.

“They wanted their Academy of ASTEM to be designed in a way that cultivates the curiosity and desire for exploration that children have, with a variety of spaces and installations included alongside the more traditional classroom.”

The success of the project has resulted in China Future Education Group appointing Broadway Malyan onto a long-term strategic framework to deliver further projects in the future.