In the human body, the brain is the organ which, from a physical point of view, reaches its maximum development from the very first years of life. At only 3 years old, the brain of a child is about 80% of its adult size, and within the first 5 years it reaches 90%. A simple fact, which helps us to understand just how fundamental psychophysical well-being is for the future development of the individual during the first years of life, inevitably leading us to consider the importance of the physical space that surrounds us and the influence it can exert. No longer serving as mere functional containers, school spaces acquire an increasingly important and above all active role in children’s education, favouring their general well-being and accompanying the development process with sensory and cognitive stimuli. All this leads to an increasingly closer relationship between architecture and pedagogy, necessary to develop immersive and experiential architectural spaces designed to provide the right stimuli to support children’s imagination and learning.
These are precisely the key points characterising the projects recently developed by the Vudafieri-Saverino Partners studio for the Gymboree Play & Music brand in the cities of Shenzhen and Suzhou, in China.
Gymboree Play & Music is an American brand known all over the world, with over 700 centres in 40 countries. The brand offer courses for children, from infants up to 6 years old, as well as for their parents, consisting of recreational and creative activities aimed at stimulating and developing the cognitive and relational abilities of early childhood. Children are engaged in a range of activities that include listening to music, art lessons and playing. The architects’ main goal was therefore to translate the philosophy of the brand together with the needs of the teachers and of the young students, into architecture. The project involved four Gymboree centres (two in Shenzhen and two in Suzhou) composed of a series of environments differentiated by shapes, colours and materials.
To engage the children and their parents in highly immersive environments, the architects selected the theme of travel, adapting it to the different areas of the school and translating it into different natural spaces: the ocean, the forest, the desert, the Arctic, the canyon and space. Each environment becomes a magical and dreamlike context designed to stimulate the children’s curiosity and imagination, allowing them to live unique experiences and visit unknown worlds. A result that architects were able to obtain thanks to a careful design of the spaces: simple geometries, strong and vivid colours and different materials. Architectural solutions that stimulate sensory experiences, while also allowing parents to relive the fun and the memories of their own childhood.
The Shenzhen Upper Hills School, which also includes Gymboree’s offices, is the most significant of the four projects completed by the Vudafieri-Saverino Partners studio for the brand. The entire school, a space that covers more than 2000 square metres, is an immersive and experiential environment including a central garden with a playground for outdoor activities. The personalisation of the façades with the logo and the colours of the brand render the structure immediately recognisable in the urban context.
Gymboree Shenzhen VIP School & Office
Project by Vudafieri-Saverino Partners, Claudio Saverino, Tiziano Vudafieri www.vudafierisaverino.it
Design team: Anna Petrara, Stefano Piontini, Ana Arango, Iris Cai, Luke Lin
Area: VIP School (2100 sqm), Office (933 sqm)
Location: Shenzhen and Suzhou, China
Images courtesy of Vudafieri-Saverino Partners, photo by Alan Grillo, Dirk Wiblen