The object of the competition was the design of a nursery school and a day care center for the elderly at Chania, Crete. As a spatial manifestation of the generational trajectory of human life, our proposal hosts three different age groups in a succession of four discreet yet porous frames. These frames delineate three gardens of variable character and proportions, catering to the project’s specific user groups: infants, preschool, the elderly, and local residents. A horizontal plane departs from Verdanaraki street and defines the level of social and communal activity while a lower, excavated level accommodating the infants reaches down to Athanasiou Sklirou street. The two levels thus define the two vectors of the proposal, from old to young, and from open to protected. The latent poetry in this project’s program is thus highlighted by this multifaceted experience of the human lifetime.
The orientation of the frames on site is optimized for natural daylighting and ventilation. Flanking pergolas on both sides regulate incident sunlight and create transitional spaces between indoors and outdoors. The longitudinal sliding glazing is such that spaces can be fully opened to the outdoors. Green roofs ameliorate the environmental performance of the building, and the deciduous vines hanging through the pergolas pleasantly enhance shading in the summer months while letting in more winter light.
The three gardens are a key feature in our proposal, their individuality set in high relief by the simplicity and regularity of the frames. The richness of sensorial and cognitive stimuli in the outdoor environment is crucial in early childhood development as it trains the full spectrum of children’s senses. Heralded as a “third teacher”, gardens are spaces for learning, play, social activity, contemplation, daydreaming, and as such are prescribed by the most innovative preschool programs. The different character and shapes of gardens serve specific purposes. The hardscaped neighborhood park is the largest and is intended for intergenerational social intermingling, particularly around the urban farming patches that serve educational purposes for the young. The elongated preschool garden creates space for play, necessitated by the children’s need for mobility. Finally, the infants’ garden is geared towards safety, its dimensions and height providing a sense of enclosure, and the rubber softscape with interspersed low rise vegetation creates an inviting scale and welcoming environment for infants to play on.