In Kumamoto City, Japan, there’s a kindergarten that, instead of forbidding kids to play in the rain, actually encourages it.
The Dai-Ichi Yochien building is a newly built kindergarten that has an open courtyard, and when rainwater gathers and forms a puddle, the students are allowed to splash away.
It’s an unconventional way of learning, but one that lets children interact directly with nature.
We talked to Taku Hibino, CEO of architecture firm Hibino Sekkei, to find out more.
Where did the idea for this kindergarten come from? What was the inspiration behind the open ceiling layout?
“The idea came from playing games in a puddle when I was child. There are many people who get bored with rainy days. But as we all know, it was really funny opening an umbrella or putting on a raincoat on a rainy day when we were young. So, these experiences made me design an openable roof.”
We read that you designed the building to maximise the children’s interaction with nature. Please tell us more about this.
“Nature is changing every day. We can learn various feelings like warmth, toughness, happiness, and sadness from it. So it is important to make children interact with nature.
“Following the concept we tried our best to design big openable windows. Maybe some insects and a colourful bird will come to them. Maybe they can notice and feel something from there. We want to children to do it and feel.”
We also love how you designed the toilets. It’s cute, but also very clean and spacious. What’s the story behind it?
“When I was young, the toilets in our school were really dark and dirty. I’m sure a huge number of people dislike this toilet the same as me. So we wanted to relieve our children from this kind of experience by designing more light toilets.”
You also used a system wherein students bring their own furniture at the start of the school year, then take it home after the year ends. Can you explain to us this concept further?
“Generally, the school provides the furniture for the student and it belongs to the school. But the problem is that the furniture will get bad as time passes by.
“But, if the students bring the furniture asked by the school, it can always be new ones. And after three years, it can be a keepsake of their school life and can be continued to be used at home.”
How should a kindergarten be designed? What factors did you consider when you were planning it all out?
“Kindergartens should be designed for the children, but what usually people do is to design for adults. What children want is to play without thinking whether they would get dirty or hurt. What we did was to satisfy their needs, making them grow up in this way.”
You can find out more about Hibino Sekkei and their work here.