My house is located in Surat, Gujarat. It is a township near Hazira. For years, neighbouring children used to visit our home especially during festivals like Ganesh Chatturthi and Navratri. My mother is fond of kids and likes to be with them. The choice of the program of designing a Day Care centre (for kids below ten year old), is influenced by this aspect. Also, the neighbouring context of the house is of a township for the employees of a corporate company, wherein there are families where both the parents work from eight to six. This makes the child feel alone and there is on one to take care of. In a few cases the kids come home from school before parents, so instead of staying alone at home for hours they could spend some time with other kids at this centre.
A Day Care centre in my perspective should be welcoming and homely for the kids. Security of kids is the major governing factor for such a program. The design is made translucent by using jali walls on periphery to let the neighbourhood and the centre be visually interactive, and the spaces inside have glass walls as much as possible. On the backside of the centre a double volume space opens into the backyard for the kids to play around. Kids can not be bounded, neither should we try to bound them, we must let them live on their will. They have their way of exploring the world, nature and the people around them. We should not stop them from playing around, but we can surely look upon their security. Being in a township it is a safe place for children. The design lets the kids be free to play around. Semi open and open spaces are made as much as possible for kids to be in a natural environment.
Instead of providing small pockets, I used longer and larger spaces on both the levels so that all kids can spend time together and at the same time can be supervised easily.
The play in levels and interconnection of the double volumes excites me the most about the design. The mid landing terrace garden enhances the circulation. The fenestration helps in connecting the double volmes. One volume opening into another volume. And all these volumes facing a courtyard are interesting.
While designing the Day Care centre, the mischief the kids could do in this form, in this space or in this design has always surprised me throughout. For once I had made window sills three feet high on the second floor, but later got to know that the kids would paint the walls and it would also block their vision for looking outside. And while deciding what kind of railing to be made was also confusing. A railing with vertical members would make the kids excited to slide down, while a railing with verticals makes them feel like grills of a cage. Safety is more important, so I made a railing which has no continuous surface to slide on.
Overall, the process was interesting. I realised that kids cannot be bound, they will do their thing. They are unaware of the rules. They don’t realise that someone is cooking and should pull their hand, nor do they realise that their parents are busy in their formal meeting and should not interrupt. They always do their own thing. So the design should let them be busy doing something (sorting things of different sizes, extracting beans etc) so they don’t get into unsafe situations.