Early Learning Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada by Teeple Architects.
Local architect for the nearby Graduate House by Morphosis, Teeple Architects is no stranger to progressive design, particularly in the realm of day care. Over the last ten years, the Toronto-based firm has created numerous centers, leading up to the wonderful University of Toronto Early Learning Centre. Spatially interesting, light-filled, and responsive to the children's needs, the 1,061 s.m. (11,400 s.f.) building also responds to its site in a way that improves upon the interior spaces.
A brick-clad wall and cantilevered stair signal a ramp to the main entry from the alley and parking. Inside a long ramp reiterates the exterior progression to connect the day care's two main levels. Acting as a functional connector, the ramp also provides a gentle incline for play and a visual connection between the younger and older children on the lower and upper floors, respectively.
Elsewhere on the exterior, green-tinted glass and standing-seam, galvanized metal prevails. What appears to be random masses and openings is the product of a complex composition that connects the interior and exterior spaces. Double-height spaces on the upper floor add variety to the overall mass but also help form play areas on the roof. An outdoor play area at grade provides the best glimpse of the architect's sensitivity to the site: a large, existing walnut tree is wrapped by the building, in a gesture that preserves the tree while indicating the subservient role of the building to nature.
An article in Azure indicates that firm principal Stephen Teeple values the connections the design makes between in and out. The variety of window openings emphasizes this more than a grid of regular windows could accomplish. Some glass brings in sun while other areas frame particular views or connect to outdoor spaces. Teeple has created an environment where kids can sense this connection as they will be continually amazed by the variety inherent in the playful spaces of the architecture.
[Google Earth link]