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Childcare centre architecture with steel mesh attractively fulfils safety requirements

Particularly in their first few years, children need space to develop freely, to move and play; they need inspiring learning areas for creative ideas. Whether in a crèche, kindergarten or at school; child-friendly architecture promotes youngsters' healthy development. Naturally compliance with safety regulations in particular is imperative. That means childcare centre architecture is facing two challenges at the same time.

Today, childcare centres and kindergartens are more than just childcare facilities. They are part of the education system and are thus making new demands on authorities, educators and kindergarten teachers, concepts and not least the environment. Because the well-thought-out, child-friendly design of rooms and spaces encourages children's natural inquisitiveness and curiosity, and gives them the opportunity to enjoy movement and free playing. At the same time, it is essential that the environment offers sufficient safety to protect the little ones when they are running around and climbing.

Optical reserve fulfilling functional requirements: Kirchhaldenschule complex

It is hardly noticeable from a distance, but a stainless steel mesh veil drapes itself over the new building in the Kirchhaldenschule education centre in Stuttgart's Botnang district. The compact structure with a quadratic ground plan extends the existing complex of school building, sports hall and caretaker apartment, creating new rooms for movement and games for the approx. 60 daycare children. The purpose-built structure designed by Günter Hermann Architekten is divided into two areas: the first floor with an all-day area and canteen for the primary school pupils and childcare facility on the upper two floors. This functional separation is reflected in the façade design. A row of floor-to-ceiling windows, broken up by elements made of exposed concrete, in the lower area contrasts with the façade cladding made of pre-weathered, structure-planed larch of the upper two floors. Spacious window openings create light-flooded play areas for the youngsters. On two sides surrounding escape balconies extend the volume of the cube. A preassembled façade mesh provides safety for both children and educators as they move around. The stainless steel mesh effectively merges with the light wood of the façade, its subdued presence leaving plenty of scope for the architecture to be enjoyed in full. Depending on the light, the mesh has a more or less space-shaping effect and changes the form of the building volume. A vertical change of the mesh widths has a functional use and is visually appealing. Up to the parapet, a small mesh width of 40 mm stops the children from climbing. The larger mesh width of 70 mm from the parapet up to the edge of the ceiling increases the transparency of the façade mesh so that you can gaze into the distance without any hindrance.

Cheerful double-purpose façade mesh at St. Nikolaus childcare centre in Eibelstadt

From a distance what look to be red sequins adorn the façade of the St. Nikolaus childcare centre in the Bavarian town of Eibelstadt. The planners from the architecture firm Jäcklein used the stainless steel mesh as fall protection on the outer escape balconies, at the same time deliberately integrating it as a design element. This makes the building look cheerful and inviting, strong colour accents and the arbitrary arrangement of the round decorative elements in the upper and lower mesh area stimulate the children's imagination. Thanks to the transparency of the stainless steel mesh, the view to the outside is retained; the children can observe nature and see what is happening in the yard and garden. This satisfies their natural curiosity and enables interaction with the environment. Stretching over a total height of 4.50 m and with the mesh width changing between 40 and 80 mm, the mesh provides reliable protection when walking on the outside emergency walkways.

Focusing on openness and transparency: Kinderhaus in the Riedlepark

The new Kinderhaus in the Riedlepark building in Friedrichshafen, Germany, is an innovative childcare centre which satisfies today's requirements of all-day childcare. The architecture planned by Lanz Schwager Architekten from Constance is open and friendly. Light wood and spacious rooms ensure an inviting atmosphere; the clear, geometric design language provides orientation. A wide, sports-arena-like staircase leads up from the atrium-like foyer to the galleries of the top floor which accommodates the group rooms for the approximately 130 children up to six years of age. On the stairway, a double-running balustrade filled with stainless steel mesh provides protection and safety. Virtually invisible and yet robust, it fades into the background and, with a narrow mesh width, ensures that children's feet cannot get a hold to climb. To underscore the open character of the architecture, the galleries on the second floor do without sight-impeding balustrades. A transparent stainless steel mesh is installed here to the ceiling as fall protection: the cables are two mm wide and the mesh width is 60 mm. The ceiling-high safety mesh also stops the children throwing any objects down to the first floor. The mesh was secured virtually invisibly ensuring the architecture can be enjoyed to the full. An organically shaped wooden cocoon hanging from the ceiling is an eye-catcher in the foyer and is a contrast to the otherwise resolute geometry of the architecture. An arch-shaped entrance integrated in the protective mesh provides the children with safe access to this light-flooded play and retreat area.

With the stainless steel mesh “X-TEND” by by Carl Stahl Architecture, the combination of aesthetics and practicality works, resulting in ideal spaces for early childhood education and development. Virtually invisible and yet stable, the stainless steel mesh reliably protects youngsters in all kinds of situations – without restricting either their freedom of movement or their imagination. As a carrier structure for decorations, works of art and lighting, it also provides space for creative design.

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