Team: Bart Ramakers, Douglass Alligood, Erik Berg Kreider, Evan Saarinen, Filip Milovanovic, Florencia Kratsman, Francesca Portesine, Il Hwan Kim, Jakob Lange, Ji Young Yoon, Kristoffer Negendahl, Josiah Poland, Mengzhu Jiang, Ryan Yang, Stephen Kwok, Terrence Chew, Tore Banke, Tracy Sodder
Collaborators: WeWork, Environetics Group Inc., Cosentini Associates, William Vitacco Associates Ltd., Digifabshop, Bednark Studio, Laufen, Ketra, Febrik
Text description provided by the architects. BIG and WeWork’s collaboration and belief in creativity manifests through the first WeGrow school in New York City. The interactive learning landscape supports a conscious approach to education, nurturing the growth, spirit and mind of the 21st century child. The 10,000 ft2 learning universe for children aged three to nine is located in WeWork’s HQ in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
A field of spaces with a variety of functions allow children to move freely throughout the day and to learn from the environment around them and each other. The learning landscape encourages collaboration by emphasizing transparent and communal spaces, which comprise more than half of the school: four classrooms, flexible workshops, community space, multi-purpose studio, art studio, music room and other playscapes support the energy of creation and togetherness.
Most of the partitions inside the school are shelves raised to the level of the child, allowing natural light to reach deep inside the building. Three different shelving levels for each age group curve occasionally to create various activity pockets and give a feeling of comfort, safety and community, while allowing teachers to have full perspective of the space at all times. Above, acoustic clouds made of felt reflect the different patterns in nature – fingerprint, coral, landscape and moon – and illuminate with Ketra bulbs that shift in color and intensity based on the time of day.
Each learning station within WeGrow includes furniture with details and materials carefully designed by BIG to optimize the educational environment: modular classrooms promote movement and collaboration, puzzle tables and chairs manufactured by Bendark Studios come in kid and parent sizes to offer equal perspectives, and the vertical garden with tiles made in Switzerland by Laufen house different plants depending on shade exposure. The mushroom shelves and magic meadow create a calm setting for a more focused study while reading hives form an immersive library for an organic learning environment.
Teachers and parents share the lobby with the children, where a playful felt nook forms from the smooth cut out in the walls to serve as a flexible work, meet and waiting area. Children can join in the brain puzzle, an all-felt lounge that can be taken apart for playing and learning. From the lobby to the classrooms, WeGrow is lit by Gople Lamp and Alphabet of Light – flexible lighting systems designed by BIG Ideas and manufactured by Artemide to create ambience effects that form comfortable, natural lighting throughout the school day. Playful and transparent, yet homelike and structured, WeGrow nurtures the child’s education through introspection, exploration and discovery.