With a threefold design objective, the Rafter J Childcare needed to fit contextually into its residential neighborhood, rely upon sustainable design practices and experientially stimulate its young users.
Architects Ward + Blake went beyond simply fulfilling requirements, teaming up with the Boston-based childcare design experts DW Arthur to create a facility that explicitly educates and stimulates children through its design. The education-driven program reflects DW Arthur’s design mantra that children learn through experiencing their environment: A ‘family-room’ concept with gently curving walls defines the main corridor in which children of different ages can freely interact, which then opens into private rooms that accommodate specific needs and ages. The interior’s child-focused design concepts also play out on the exterior with large glass expanses and clerestory windows that welcome ample natural light, and a rooftop play space for outdoor recreation.
Mining iconic design motifs such as beaver slides, time-evolved and haphazardly-constructed ranch outbuildings, and horizontally-slatted fence lines for inspiration, the 12,000-square-foot facility is cleverly broken down into smaller masses that reference these differing motifs. While a beaver slide-like enclosure over the stairway occupies much of the south elevation, it converges with a horizontally slatted wall that moves the eye easily across the structure.
Sensitive not only to its immediate residential environment, but to the natural environment as well, the building gets 50 percent or more of its energy from an onsite geothermal system, storm water runoff is controlled through sod roofs, and a computerized system efficiently controls natural and artificial light.