This project won the 2013 Architizer A+ Popular Choice Award in the Student Designed category. See the full list of winners here.
When designing an early childhood education (ECD) center that required a high level of security in Johannesburg, a group of students at Cornell University were faced with a difficult challenge: how to make an ECD center safe and secure, while still appearing friendly to the young children attending the school, and open and engaging to the surrounding community.
The team re-imagined the perimeter of the site as a threshold abundant with spatial possibilities, but also as an opportunity to redefine existing public/private relationships. Named Armadillo Crèche, the design of the ECD folds in on itself, much like the animal that the project is named after. !
Armadillo Crèche is the product of a two-year process orchestrated by Cornell University Sustainable Design, an interdisciplinary student-led organization that sent 30 student volunteers to South Africa to construct the school alongside local laborers from the surrounding neighborhood, Cosmo City. The design merges the boundary with the buildings and landscape, creating zones of different scales for various activities as it unfurls, and places strong emphasis on sustainable passive technologies to decrease cost and energy dependency. At the heart of the ECD center lies communal programs: a semi-outdoor dining space and a paved play area. The wedge-shaped courtyard nestled in between the classrooms became team member Andrew Fu's favorite aspect of the design: "When you're in it there's a real sense of intimacy and also connection to the surrounding landscape," says Fu.
An even greater challenge to the team than the required security measures was the accelerated timeframe in which the project had to be completed. The team had five months to take schematic drawings and a studio concept, and develop them into a realized building—and this had to be done halfway across the world. Unbelievably, the project was pulled off with great success, and shows the payoff that comes with dedication and commitment, all from a group of college-aged designers. Congrats, team!