Page D2.2 . 08 October 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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    Oasis for Children


    It now contains a plethora of play spaces, a core education space, infant and toddler rooms, a recreation room, counseling rooms, a parent resource library, an adult classroom, and administration spaces.

    Let There Be Light

    One of the design's driving forces was the desire to capture as much natural light as possible — allowing it to penetrate every interior space. According to architect Chris Duncan, one of Gelfand's project managers, the strategy was to scoop out parts of the building as wells that would deliver light deep into the building's interior.

    For example, a long light well was created along the east wall, delivering natural illumination to the two above-grade floors. On the north wall, a well is punched at the middle of the party wall, flooding the surrounding spaces with daylight. Light is also shared between spaces through interior windows.

    "Children have a close relationship to the environment," Duncan explains. The light constantly reinforces this tie, serving as a reference point for the day's passing — the slant of the morning sun, the wash of high midday light, the approach of nightfall. Every space in the project invites the sun.

    Safety First

    Because of its location and the nature of its clientele, the building needs to provide a secure environment that will not be compromised by the design's visual openness. This is accomplished not only in obvious ways (locks and alarms) but in subtle moves as well.

    For example, the interior windows between rooms allow views through the building from space to space, promoting a sense of safety and visual connection between the kids and their caregivers.

    On the street level, the lower sections of the large windows are frosted, while the upper arched openings are clear. This, Duncan points out, provides privacy from passersby, yet allows views of the surrounding urban streetscape from inside the building.

    Child's Play

    Bright colors are used on the exterior to give the center a child-friendly identity, while inside, each space takes on a unique character to provide a diverse, stimulating environment. Each space has a color theme, differentiating it from other spaces, allowing them to serve as orientation points for the children.

    To communicate a sense of home to those without homes, the interior design emphasizes a comfortable scale, natural materials (such as varnished woodwork and storage cabinets), textured carpet on floors and as wainscoting, and built-in features such as inviting window seats.

    "We wanted the space to feel noninstitutional," says Duncan. One of the delightful surprises is the ceiling of the toddler room on the second floor. Here the architects lowered the scale of the space with drop-ceiling "clouds" that float overhead.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    The second-floor toddler room of the Tenderloin Childcare Center has a lowered ceiling made of illuminated "clouds."
    Photo: Donna Kempner

    ArchWeek Image

    Section looking east, Tenderloin Childcare Center.
    Image: Gelfand RNP Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Ground floor plan, Tenderloin Childcare Center.
    Image: Gelfand RNP Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    The "Rainbow Room" on the ground floor has a fabric wainscot and observation windows.
    Photo: Donna Kempner

    ArchWeek Image

    Second floor plan, Tenderloin Childcare Center.
    Image: Gelfand RNP Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    Second-floor toddler room with an alcove and observation windows.
    Photo: Donna Kempner

    ArchWeek Image

    Toddler room on the second floor, showing the central light shaft.
    Photo: Donna Kempner

    ArchWeek Image

    Toilet room for toddlers.
    Photo: Ken Rackow


    Click on thumbnail images
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