Early childhood experience strongly influences most of the patterns of perception that accompany us throughout our lives; this makes very important the environment in which we experience the world and how it conditions our interactions. That’s why we started from the idea of an expansive, bright and pastel space, free from the typical clichés of the nursery space, to invite the child’s physical and imaginative exploration. Functional separation is transformed into dialogue by dissolving the usual division between group room and bedroom, inside and outside, upstairs and downstairs, etc. The space of the group is unitary and must be conquered, discovered, appropriated entirely: safari in a miniature universe with interior facades, multiple staircases, populated by multifunctional characters and permeable boundaries.
The construction of new nurseries is an exception in recent architectural production, the vast majority of these social facilities being created according to typical solutions, which require updating. The opportunity for such an experiment was the expansion of the Ursulețul nursery, in the Mănăștur neighborhood of Cluj-Napoca. Eccentrically located within the neighborhood, the site is surrounded by collective houses made of prefabricated panels, based on the principle of micro-districts specific to the 70s. Despite this, the proximity of the forest and the abundant vegetation give it a scenic and protective atmosphere.
The existing building occupies the center of the plot, so the expansion sits on the available free land, quite close to the western limit, adjacent to a pedestrian walkway, but also a generous green space. The order from the local administration for the new structure was to house 6 nursery groups, practically to double the capacity of the existing one, as well to place at the upper floors the offices of the Budget Center for Nursery Administration. The need of developing the vertical function and the local urban regulation conduct to successive withdrawal of the floors from the property.
The concept of a unitary compact volume was born to accommodate all functions, with a familiar and playful silhouette: an unusual house among the blocks of the neighborhood, facing the wooded slope. This is thought like a spatial Tetris, where functions intersect vertically to generate unexpected geometries. Group rooms extend vertically into the office floor, amplifying the feeling of space and light. The skylights add a 5th facade to the interior space, so the ceiling also becomes a canvas of the imagination. The partitions are transitory: removable walls and textile dividers make up the props of a scenography where the space is always resized according to needs.
The opening to nature was an essential theme where the architecture had to respond. The volume develops the relationship with the outside through direct access to the courtyard in each group, and upstairs through framing the landscape, the sky. The need for privacy on the ground floor leads us to the usage of translucent materials and successive filters. The wide terrace above the main entrance creates a courtyard for children upstairs, and reduces the perceived silhouette of the building. The terraces on the upper floors cut the roof plane, breaking the monotony of the roof structure, creating an opening to the Făget forest.
The architecture is modest, simple, functional, colors are used to induce a calm, positive atmosphere, using natural materials. The pieces of furniture are thought like abstract characters that populate this inner world.
PROGRAM: Extension of the Ursulețul nursery
SURFACE: 3717 sqm
LOCATION: Aleea Meziad No. 4, Cluj Napoca
COLLABORATORS: Structure: MAGO PROJECT – Gheorghe CHIOREAN, Installations: GRADINSTAL – Paul BIRIȘ, Furniture: NURB
PHOTO: Silviu Aldea