Designing a Learning Centre With Families At Heart
We have a wonderful project we recently completed to share with you today! Liquid Interiors has a strong ethos for creating environments that foster human connections because we know that there are significant benefits to health and wellbeing from contact with positive communities in daily life. So having previously created ‘Learning Habitat’, a Kindergarden, we were delighted to be asked to take on a second project, this time ‘Learning Habitat Families’ a new centre with a new concept in Tai Kok Tsui, Kowloon.
Learning Habitat Families is an amazing new space that cultivates a community of love and positivity around families and child rearing. Its mission is to help motivate parents to succeed in building happy family lives and to strengthen the family unit so all family members across the generations will thrive and grow. There are two parts to the centre, ‘Habitat’, is a venue for parenting programmes, seminars and workshops for parents of children who attend Learning Habitat Kindergarden Nursery and ‘Little Habs’ offers playgroup for children aged 12 to 36 months.
The Learning Habitat Family Space
The space chosen for the centre was in Hampton Loft, Tai Kok Tsui, it was a huge area to design and develop at over 12,000 sq ft, the blank space in the drawing below is the area for development.
The different areas to be incorporated into the completed centre were: a welcoming entrance with reading area, the members club (a parent’s area with kitchen and lounge), the children’s playground with classrooms, restrooms and offices.
You can see from the photographs taken before this project kicked off that it really was just a shell. Can you envisage a family centre in this space at this stage?! It’s difficult to imagine when there are just the bare bones of a building. In fact these photos were taken after the original office space with very low ceilings and covered windows had been removed, so seeing these high ceilings was amazing!
However, the overall space, loft feel and the views made it an inspiring choice and we could see straight away that it was a project with huge potential.
The Learning Habitat Concept
Right from the beginning we got into planning an overall concept for the family centre that would shape and influence the design from inception to completion.
Several concept ideas were put forward but the one that really connected was ‘Friends Giving’; it began as an idea of a weekend in a cottage where friends could hang out in an eclectic, warm and rustic home, sharing time, food and happiness.
You can see how the mood boards illustrate this idea. This concept also connected nature into the city and we developed the idea that the cottage should be set in a place that was inspired by natural Hong Kong, connecting the family centre with the environment.
This overall idea was then crystallized into separate mood boards for the different zones within the building showing how each area would carry the concept forward.
Developing The Learning Centre Project
There are many stages to development in a project of this size and nature but the essentials to get right from the beginning were planning out the space and working some eco and healthy elements into the renovation.
The illustration below is of the layout plan showing how the cavernous space was carefully broken up into different areas and zones, with the children’s play area remaining central; this is shown as the green area, it has the classrooms at the bottom of the dawing and the Habitat parents space to the left, looking out to the water.
As with all our projects we spent a lot of time incorporating healthy and eco concepts into our design, influenced by the WELL and LEED building standards. Below we illustrated the concepts that we recommended to focus on in this project.
A high priority within this design was to improve the air quality. Air purification was introduced into all the rooms with the addition of purified fresh air being pumped into the space; the air drawn in from the outside is also conditioned to control humidity. LED light panels were specified throughout. All wood used in this project was FSC, meaning that it came from sustainably managed sources, we care about every element that goes into our projects, even if you can’t see them!
At the end of the project we carried out a complete air flush of the entire space, a process that is designed to improve the air quality before it’s used by the staff and public. The flush forces fresh air through the building to remove VOC’s and pollutants that may have inadvertently entered the space during the refurbishment.
These elevations of the design, drawn to scale, illustrate the practicalities of the design, they are specific in demonstrating how different parts of the building will work and take the development a stage further.
Scale renderings are also a really great way to show how the design could look and give the client a very clear view of how it might feel to be in the space once it is completed. These elements really help to inform final decisions by helping to see how our ideas work and visualise the space completed and in use. The examples below show different views of the playground area and classrooms.
Below are some great examples of the development of a design through freehand sketch drawings, these are for the library area in the parents snug.
Connecting Children With The Natural World
We worked very closely with Cheers, a graphic design company, who helped us to bring to life our ideas of connecting the cottage feel with the natural world to inspire the children attending the centre.
To give them a sense of the outdoors in the space the rooms were themed around animals that are naturally found in Hong Kong, these were hand drawn by the graphic designers creating original illustrated characters. The classrooms were themed around the seasons in the outdoors with the animals featuring in the scenes.
Cheers also helped to create graphics that related to the theme in some of the rooms for parents, this one below is for the conference room and features botanical flora native to Hong Kong.
The Transformation Begins
After all that intensive design work the construction was well and truly underway in these photographs, the walls were going in and the design was beginning to take shape.
Pressed woods can be a severe source of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), so FSC certified, formaldehyde-free plywood was specified for the walls. ln addition, all paints and adhesives that were used in the entire project had low or zero VOC’s.
The Big Reveal of a Family Center With A Big Heart
Finally we can show you the photos of the completed project! The concept has been worked through the entire space and the look is minimal but fun with features in rustic materials that still feel fresh and modern.
The entrance area is fresh and green with a living wall giving a great sense of a natural space as soon as you enter. Using plants in this way has been shown to have a positive and uplifting effect on people.
As intended the areas of chalkboard have been personalized by the very creative staff, they reinforce the sense of community in the centre and send out a wonderful message!
The illustrations of the mountains of Hong Kong on this section are painted with chalk paint to enable them to be used as chalkboards.
The open area is designed to feel like the outdoors with the wood and glass wall to the classrooms decorated with a fence over which you can look into the classrooms. Each classroom is has a different theme illustrated through the colorful graphics.
You can clearly see here that the ceiling has been kept open, exposing the utilities and giving more height space and an airy feel to the rooms. The flooring in this section is low VOC linoleum flooring.
The stage is brought to life by an illustrated imaginary map of Hong Kong that highlights different parts of the Hong Kong experience. This sets the space within its environment, connecting the learning habitat with Hong Kong and providing a sense of place.
Unusual lampshades have been chosen to give a modern take on the effect of clouds.
A truly customized experience was created using the decorative wall art, which helps to create a mood and personalize the different spaces as shown here in a classroom.
Moving onto the parents lounge, this area has a really cozy and warm log cabin with a modern twist feel.
Parents can hang out and mingle in the relaxed community vibe or take part in cooking workshops in the dream-kitchen space. The emphasis being on learning alongside their kids.
The table is laid for a commual get together in the shared community space.
The conference room was set up as a space for seminars for parents, to equip them with practical parenting knowledge and understanding of the needs in their child’s journey of growth. The seminar room is illustrated with hand drawn plants that are native to Hong Kong, connecting the space with the environment.
Having been influenced by Liquid Interiors non-toxic approach to cleaning, natural products are used throughout the centre, which gives a fresh and pleasant feel as you use the space.
The bathrooms were designed for adult and child sharing, with a large and small sized toilet.
The sinks were ergonomically designed with kids in mind so that small children can reach the faucets and the soap, giving them more independence.
A Design For Families
The Learning Habitat Family Centre is now completed and is becoming a very special place for those that use it because of the wonderful service that is provided there. We also believe that spending time in a centre low in toxins, with purified air is good for concentration and can limit allergies and the long term health effects of poor air quality. We hope you have enjoyed this tour, it has been a pleasure to share it with you, we are certain that this design will host some wonderful moments for parents and children alike. If you would like more information on any of the topics we have touched on then you can find further reading on our blog:
To learn more about the ‘MIND’ concept from the WELL Building standard see this blog.
To learn more about creating a non-toxic home or workplace this blog could help.
To find out more about Learning Habitat Families you can see their website here.
Or for more information, feel free to contact Liquid Interiors, your healthy and eco consious interior design consultants.