MAD Architects completed the new kindergarten in a form of floating roof around the 18th-century Siheyuan courtyard in China.
In 2017, MAD Architects was commissioned to design a kindergarten next to a senior citizens’ apartment in Beijing, reflecting the client’s "intergenerational integration" ethos that blends pre-school education and eldercare. The subject site, covering an area of 9,275 square meters, consisted of an original 18th-century Siheyuan courtyard, an adjacent replica courtyard built in the 1990s, and a four-story modern building. Following its completion at the end of 2019, the kindergarten now serves as a pre-school education space for 390 children aged from 1.5 to 6 years old.
In shaping the project, MAD chose to remove the replica courtyard outside the historic 18th-century original, and replace it with a new space that holds the Siheyuan courtyard “in the palm of its hand.” As it envelops the old courtyard, the new space adopts a low and gentle posture, with a flowing motion contrasting the strict, orderly layout of the historic structure. This tension, emerging from different dimensions in time, gives the building a renewed life. The new does not overshadow the old, while the past does not overtake the present.
The new building forms a “floating roof” that connects a variety of independent spaces in unity while making people feel as if they have entered a whole new realm.
The undulating “caving” topography of the roof forms a Martian landscape of sorts, enticing children to run, play, and interact with it and each other. When combined with the ancient courtyard, old trees, and infinite sky, a surreal environment inspires children to think, reflect, and chase endless possibilities.
At ground level, MAD designed three courtyards around several old trees on the original site. The new courtyards correspond to those of the old Siheyuan structures, providing the teaching spaces with light, ventilation, and an outdoor extension, while slides and stairs connect the courtyards to the rooftop landscape above.
The transition space from the first floor to the sunken level on the east side of the lobby is designed as a theater; the top of which is surrounded by a circular wall of bilingual cartoon books. The theater stage doubles as the entrance to a two-level indoor playground, which serves not only as a space for children’s activities but also a place for the whole kindergarten to hold arts and sports events.