College Building and Childcare Center

Design Lead: Steffen Leisner, with Carde Ten Architects
Structural Design: Thornton Tomasetti

The Santa Monica Early Childhood Education Center project is a multi-use facility located within the City of Santa Monica Civic Center Specific Plan area.  It is a cooperative project between Santa Monica College and the City of Santa Monica to build a state of the art lab school that provides a teacher training environment for Santa Monica College students in the Early Childhood Education program, provides childcare for up to 110 children, and is a community resource that offers information about childcare services and activities throughout the city of Santa Monica.  The project consists of three structures on an approximately 60,000sf site: An administration and college classroom building, and two childcare buildings with adjacent outdoor classrooms and playgrounds.

The massing of the Administration building articulates a hard edge along 4th Street in response to the urban character of the site.  A protruding entry volume on the ground level and large glazing areas with deep vertical sun shading fins on the upper level provide for a differentiated façade.  Facing the play yards, the building massing announces a smaller scale, appropriate for the childcare use.  To reinforce the unifying image of the project within the context of the larger structures of the Civic Center, all three buildings have the same exterior finish.  A strong horizontal articulation of the exterior cladding throughout further contributes to the large scale.  Within this move, a smaller, local scale is introduced by applying a distinct color and material palette, which provides orientation and identifies the main entry areas, the classrooms, and other key project elements.

On an urban scale, the massing allows for an extension of the street grid that runs between the Court House and the Civic Center Garage into the passage between the classroom buildings and creates a strong view axis. By arranging the childcare classrooms back-to-back with a shared, central access spine, the circulation area becomes an important communal space for parents, staff and children to gather and socialize.  For the classrooms, a courtyard typology was developed:  Two classrooms bracket an outdoor court to create ‘outdoor classrooms’.  Each age group has its own dedicated outdoor classroom.  Access to the play yards is via these intermediate indoor-outdoor spaces.  All classroom service spaces are arranged along the central access spine to create a privacy buffer.