Li Xiang Curates a Dreamy Designer Wonderland for Children to Grow Independently and Freely
X+Living’s fairytale kindergarten set amongst the clouds in Huzhou, China, comes replete with exploratory rooms of play and learning in a fantasy setting that allows children’s imaginations to run wild.
The Shanghai-based design company X+Living architectural design team work at the cutting edge of art, fashion and business. Exploring interior design, the architect and founding CEO, Li Xiang, has created many commercial, cultural, retail, and hotel projects that have received international recognition through top international awards for distinctive, inventive, experiential, and utterly memorable projects.
Having created several landmark ‘parent-child’ spaces within her career in China, Xiang has incorporated her experience into the Huzhou kindergarten project that spans 12 800 ㎡.
Xiang has carefully considered and researched the key elements, namely safety and interest, resulting in a high-quality, unconventional, and instructive kindergarten. The Zi Ling Changxing Kindergarten is a fulltime private kindergarten under the auspices of the Zi Ling Education Group. They uphold the idea of returning education to its essence and strive to build spaces for children to grow independently and freely.
Preschool education is when children begin to perceive the world and develop a way of thinking that affects their lives. Kindergartens, therefore, as such a space, should be full of exploration and positive guidance, free and borderless, so that children can fulfil their growth potential. Kindergartens should spark and direct a child’s curiosity, trigger the imagination, develop a natural love of learning and expand children’s ability to understand and comprehend the world, organise information and solve problems, increasing feelings of self-worth and self-confidence. Kindergarten teaches cooperation: the ability to work, learn and get along with or take turns, share, and listen to others, all the social and emotional learning skills that they will use through their school years and beyond.
Xiang has created such a place—a mini-city for children to enjoy fun and experience through simulated supermarkets, hospitals, and a kitchen. Classrooms are dynamically designed venues like art galleries, cultural centres, and science and technology museums that inspire the cognitive understanding of different disciplines through play-based, hands-on learning activities. There is a sports room, piano room, art room, and an experiential games room—a place for playful adventure, where psychological processes combine with physical activity and social cooperation through tasks that allow the realisation that we need to rely on other people from time to time and collaborate.
X+Living has taken the design concepts of ‘moving the universe into the kindergarten’ and ‘knowing by seeing’, bringing ‘the sanctity of education to life in a dreamy space.’
‘Knowing by seeing’ takes genesis in the lobby, where a macroscopic universe with a customised galaxy light strip surrounding six starlike sphere lamps engulfs the children in the mysteries of astronomy created to allow the students to grasp the vastness of the universe and to awaken and nurture their curiosity.
The space is fun, tactile, fantastical and joyous. The white classroom with soft ‘macaron’ colours, has a sleeping area at the side of the classroom, with a whimsical jigsaw puzzle divide. The ceiling and floors resemble soft and puffy clouds, while the skirtings, also cloud-shaped, form soft seating for parents and children. Xiang has designed the classrooms as art galleries, cultural centres, and a science and technology museum to inspire different disciplines of cognitive understanding.
The walls of the corridor connecting the classrooms and functional areas are left white, providing a space for the children’s work to be displayed; therefore, it is not only the main route for daily life and study in the kindergarten but also an art museum for children. The colour-coded auditorium has lines of gradient pastel seats, shaped much alike half-opened macarons, cocooned in a cloud of white, with a soaring spherical ceiling. The skirting lines are like ruffles of clouds that double up as soft seating for parents and children. The reading room has different heights and divisions, offering varied reading experiences. The sports room energises end users with a sunny yellow hue. The cabinets and steps are covered with soft artificial leather to prevent injuries during exercise and daily activity.
The cosier attic room features a camera to capture the children’s playful, magical moments. The giant lens doubles as a passageway, and the high ceiling introduces a play area for climbing. Xiang has introduced enlivening colour for the art room, adorning the space with jewel-hued lockers and display shelves. The LEGO-style classroom encourages building and playing. The swimming pool offers a unique illusion of swimming in clouds. The walls in their undulating form, the ups and downs of the ceiling arc, and the edge of the swimming pool all echo clouds. Soft, pale pink light permeates the scene, protecting children’s eyesight and strengthening the atmosphere. It’s pretty magical! The auditorium narrates a fairytale vibe with its spherical ceiling and seats, with glowing gradient colours.
Li Xiang has created a gently wrapped school full of love and learning. The kindergarten is not simply an aesthetic project; it benefits educational purpose while offering an imperceptible influence on the children.
Image credit: Photography by X+Living