In October 2005 the first phase of the project started with researching, analysing and first drafts of ideas. In February 2006, Astrid Dahmen and Walter Prenner visited the sites in Johannesburg for field-studies and extensive discussions with the headmaster and teachers of the school. A big request of the teaching staff is the possibility to realize new concepts of education, away from the present, hierarchical educational system, which offers little space for exercise and development. 32 Students from the ./studio 3, Institute of Experimental Architecture of the Innsbruck University and two students from Technical University Berlin, built this state-owned preschool-building, with the help of local workers, for 80 children, using their own designs. The complex consists of 2 class-rooms, kitchen, sanitary installation and an out-door playground. Embedded in a “colourful landscape”, adventure and curiosity are encouraged and serve a san experimental play-room for children to discover and conquer.
The Olifantsvlei-Preschool, embedded in a colourful landscape allows for adventure and curiosity. The children will discover the site and be captured by the experimental space. The allocated building-area covers a site of 13.000 m! and is situated about 20 km from the centre of Johannesburg. Like an island it is surrounded by other primary and secondary school buildings.
The Olifantsvlei-Preschool itself is an autarkic object with shades, paths, dwelling-places, dense and light vegetation-elements. The water-well is a peripheral element and acts as a connecting element between the existing and new building-structures.
Entering the newly formed site, a path is formed by shaded places and seat-elements dotted across the site. The preschool-building forms the centre of this landscape along a small angled edge. The path itself winds through the building, devolves into shaded areas and ends on the northern border of the site into woodlands. The ground is interspersed with different, slightly undetermined zones. This allows the children to create and act and add their own colourful ideas to those structures.
The Jungle Park, extending from the west end of the Olifantsvlei Preschool is an adventure playground— climbing frames, towers, trees, swings, niches and shaded places determine this outdoor area. The southern part of this site is defined by a shaded area around the well and through a gateway into the area. This access opens out into an area with mounted slabs and borders on a high cornfield. Hedges, fields with vegetation of various sizes like grass or reed, walls, shading-systems, seating-elements form the edges to this path to and through the buildings and represent the hardly noticeable borders of the Olifantsvlei-Preschool area. The existing clump of trees will be condensed, thus creating a sheltered area for the children of the Olifantsvlei-Preschool and the neighbouring schools on the eastern border of the site.
The building in the middle of the area is divided into two parts. One structure contains an assembly-room with 70m! and a small office, the other a second assembly-room with 75m! and sanitary facilities. The concrete floor section is raised off the site thereby defining the mounted area around the assembly-rooms. Both buildings interact together and are enclosed by a large roof, which tapers off into the shading-elements. The assembly rooms open out into the conjointly used front-court with stepped seats merging into the surrounding landscape. The wall design allows for niches and retreats, as well as elevated landings inside and out. These platforms are suitable for children only due to their measurements. Tapered walls provide seating and hiding-niches as well as storage space and shelves. Specific openings and materials allow for well directed lighting, thus creating different atmospheres and moods.
The general design-idea tries to capture the childlike natural desire to enter and conquer their surrounding. Architecture will come alive through the curiosity, the adventuresomeness and fantasy of the Olivantsvlei- Preschool-Gang. There is no better provision for their start into education and personal progress for those children.
32 Students from the ./studio 3, Institute of Experimental Architecture of the Innsbruck University and two students from Technical University Berlin, built this state-owned preschool-building, with the help of local workers, for 80 children, using their own designs. Above: The document after construction.