Since 2013, children in Germany have been legally entitled to a spot in a daycare facility starting at the age of one. Despite this, there are around 270,000 such spots still missing in Germany, 10,000 of them in Berlin alone. This status quo served as the basis for examining the potential of a kindergarten in the city. The central question was: How can a kindergarten be created in an urban context, so that it both complements its surroundings and provides the green space necessary for children to develop? Especially in cities undergoing increasing densification, it is ever more difficult to meet the spatial requirements of a kindergarten.
Based on these parameters, the students developed designs for an “Urban Kinder Garten” in the summer semester of 2019. The specific location for the study was a vacant lot between buildings in Ackerstrasse 28, in the heart of the lively district of Berlin-Mitte. A 650 m2 plot was to house a kindergarten for 75 children, a family center, and the 750 m2 outdoor playing area required by law.
The challenge was therefore to design an outdoor space, or one integrated into the building, that was larger than the site area. At the same time, it had to be taken into account that the building should not only meet the usual pedagogical requirements, but that the urban context also places certain demands on the building itself. Since a kindergarten creates an active location in its surroundings, the dialogue between its interior and exterior functions in two directions: with the public urban space on the one hand, and the semi-public open spaces of the kindergarten on the other.
The central aim of the designs is to provide each child with a protected space for independent learning, exploration, play, and development in addition to the necessary communal areas. The architecture serves as the basic spatial framework for the educational concept, supporting and supplementing it. To do so, it underscores certain key aspects: community, mutual respect, curiosity, retreat, and deceleration.