Excerpt from Machi-hoiku and Satoyama published in Paysage 2020 (The Annual Review of the Association of Landscape Architects of Quebec)
Akishima Sumire Kindergarten
AKISHIMA — TOKYO
Design Environmental Design Institute
Size - 2500 m2
School grounds Integrated buildings, playground and vegetable garden
Located in a residential area of a Tokyo suburb, this kindergarten consists of eight small separate buildings (resembling one room school houses) with red roofs, one for each class. The eight buildings are all connected by "lanes", external corridors that make up a children's “village." In addition, the school grounds include a large wooden hall with a separate classroom and play area, the symbolic Sumire Tower and an administrative building, all with a red roofs. Connected by external corridors, the buildings are grouped like a small village. Each building faces the courtyard garden in a style designed to be a calm environment, surrounded by greenery.
We access the school through the main gate, which opens onto the playground. The play area is open and offers a view of all the red roofs, allowing one to both locate and grasp the extent and depth of the complex. It is an agora for play, a large public space where children play and socialize in a casual atmosphere before going to their classrooms (one room school houses). As we walk through the playground, we begin to see the exterior corridors that connect all the school buildings, on the ground floor and the second floor. The corridors on the ground floor connect all public spaces to the school buildings, while the second-floor hallways connect all the school buildings to the office building, the main hall and the ground floor by a slide and stairs. As we head towards the corridor, our gaze is drawn upwards to the Sumire Tower, the highest point that dominates the grounds. But this view comes and goes when we pass under the corridors of the second floor, approach the school buildings along the corridors, view the children through the windows of the school houses, hear them playing an instrument during their music classes, etc. One tower leads us to a spiral slide, another to a sink. The sink is strategically located near the door of a large vegetable garden, allowing children to easily pick and wash vegetables before taking them to the kitchen to prepare for their lunch. The garden is accessible to other members of the community, who share their experience and harvest vegetables with the children.
Everything described above occurs outdoors, to varying degrees, in public spaces. The schoolyard is a public space in which children can play and develop their social skills. The 1st and 2nd floor corridors help children develop their navigational and exploration skills, while the community garden is the space where children have direct contact with the community, both the land and the people. The arrangement and definition of space evokes the sharing of resources and food production by creating spaces of social connection and common existence.