A Kindergarten for Empty Nesters
This project dedicates to the lonely Chinese baby boomer generation of empty nesters who are the wanderers and inhabitants of the old neighbourhood streets; and the screaming kids who are occupiers of the playgrounds and with endless energy and vibrancy.
A vertical neighbourhood designed for the elderly and the kids in Hangzhou manifests itself in an encapsulation of retirement home facilities and day care centres for kindergarten children.
Situated in the old city centre of Hangzhou, the project pays tribute to the disappearing old neighbourhoods and the associated ways of inhabitation. My project seeks to explore a new form of high-rise typology in which social connectivity among individuals can be celebrated with a richness in scale and nodes of interaction conducted through form and space.
Learning from the old neighbourhood ways of inhabitation, such as the da-za-yuan phenomenon in Beijing, old courtyard houses were overpopulated by proletarian families. Due to the limitation of the private space, daily life begins to leak out into the public spaces. Yet this way of inhabitation, particularly familiar to this generation of empty nesters, resembles the fact that the room has become a tent. A place of shelter, where the left over narrow streets, the spaces of excess, become fascinating spaces for where intertwining social interactions take place.
Along with a triangular plan, my building consists of a ramp around the perimeter, enclosing and connecting layers of interlocking floor plates that form a spatial module with variations articulated across three floors for residential and kindergarten purposes. The triangular geometry becomes a grid, a primary medium which allows for the generosity to divide spaces according to efficiency, while also allowing for irregular moments of excess.
The building provides an intertwining intersection of vertical spaces. Conversations between floors, that are conducted through an interplay of double height spaces, form the spatial language of the building. A spatial discourse between the elderly balconies and the ramps, the retirement home and kindergarten spaces, that are constantly varying in scale from private to public. It is almost rotational and chaotic, yet composes an acoustic ensemble and visual affiliation, with a constant awareness of each other.
My early 1:20 model demonstrates this spatial principle. Floor plates were split and interlocks into each other as one proceeds vertically into the space. A constant spatial encountering of changing in height of internal spaces. Almost rotational and chaotic yet bound to one spatial principle.
Here comes the kids...
Spaces unfold in layers, from the exterior to the interior, allowing one's eyes to follow the diagonal tangents of the triangular beams, connecting one to another moment of excess. The ramp is an internalised street, a ‘living room’ space for the beholders. Life extends out from the singular ‘shelters’ of the elderly bedroom units and leak out to the public ‘street’ for the elderly and the kids alike. It lands upon an open, continuous and interwoven living belt for all residents across the floor, forming an invited moment of irregularity, a stage for daily life to perform across vertically.
The structure consists of an assembly efficiency, a simple steel i-beam and column system played upon the triangular grid, facilitates the complication of the interior structures. Demonstrated by the construction details, the private bedroom space is sheltered in layers from the bustling noises of the streets. It is, the eldery's private hide-away if they wish to be left alone from the kids.
As the day approaches to an end, when laughters are shared, the children have left the building, the bustles of the old neighbourhood streets calm down. Lights switch on and food is being prepared. The building returns to the elderly and dissolves into the night cityscape, elderlies return to their shelters, let alone the woven interconnection of spaces, it comes to rest.