Play area: MAD’s Japanese kindergarten merges old and new

Clover House kindergarten in Okazaki
The Ma Yansong-led international architecture firm MAD has just completed a nursery in the small Japanese town of Okazaki. Photography: Rasmus Daniel Taun
(Image credit: Rasmus Daniel Taun)

Childcare architecture often aims to emulate warm, homely environments for its precious little guests. In the case of a new kindergarten in Japan, things have gotten even more literal. The Clover House nursery used to be a two-storey house, nestled in a quiet residential street in the small town of Okazaki; now, it has been dynamically transformed into its current use by Chinese architecture firm MAD.

'I think it's important to create a homely atmosphere inside this kindergarten, so instead of building a brand new building, we decide to keep the old wooden structure as the memory and the soul of the space, and work around it,' says MAD founder Ma Yansong. Aiming to create a nurturing and inspiring environment for young‘uns, the house’s owners commissioned the architects to lead their dream project, redesigning their own home into a kindergarten.

Keeping costs to a minimum, MAD decided to recycle the building’s existing wooden structure – which was originally made in a standard prefabricated frame – and use it where possible in the new design. The result? A visible three-dimensional timber skeleton that outlines areas within, in a space that gently combines old and new.

The interior is playful and fresh, with light flooding in from several windows of different shapes and sizes, punctured into the façade. The house’s traditional pitched roof was also maintained, but everything was wrapped in a new skin, blurring the boundaries between what’s new and what pre-existed.

Adding an extra dollop of playfulness, the space comes complete with a slide leading from the second floor down to the outdoor play area and the building’s front courtyard.

Clover House kindergarten exterior and street view

An existing structure was transformed from its previous residential use into a kindergarten. Photography: Fuji Koji

(Image credit: Fuji Koji)

Exposed wooden beam structure inside kindergarten

The architects reused the existing house's original timber structure in an effort to maintain a relationship between old and new, and in order to keep costs down. Photography: Fuji Koji

(Image credit: Fuji Koji)

Timber beams and floors inside kindergarten

The three-dimensional timber frame outlines different areas in the nursery, adding warmth to the interiors. Photography: Fuji Koji

(Image credit: Fuji Koji)

Entrance to Clover House kindergarten

'I think it's important to create a homely atmosphere inside this kindergarten, so instead of building a brand new building, we decide to keep the old wooden structure as the memory and the soul of the space, and work around it,' says Yansong. Photography: Fuji Koji

(Image credit: Fuji Koji)

INFORMATION

For more information, visit the MAD website (opens in new tab)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).