Education design international, Mugdha Thakurdesai, Kai Early Years Bengaluru, Early childhood campus, Institutional design, Facade design, Learning campus, Learning centre, Community centre
Photographs: Andre Fanthome

Designing for resilience

Kai Early Years in Bengaluru is a holistic learning paradise designed by education design international

Kai Early Years, an early childhood campus in Bengaluru, demonstrates a ‘third-teacher’ learning environment that nurtures the developmental needs of children aged two to six years through an engaging framework of consciously explorative and communal play spaces.

Located in Whitefield, an urban neighbourhood in Bengaluru that is home to a community of young professionals hailing from all parts of the world, Kai Early Years is spread over 1.8 acres – currently India’s largest early childhood campus.

The campus, designed by Mugdha Thakurdesai, design principal, education design international, consists of two independently functioning departments: the Learning Centre and the Community Centre – a large shaded play court between these two buildings forms the functional and social heart of the campus. The Learning Centre houses learning pods, activity spaces, and administrative spaces. The learning pods and activity zones together form the School Block – a free-flowing expanse divided as per activity and usage, rather than typical age-based divisions. These permeable spaces or ‘pods’ comprise the ‘makers’ zone, the cognitive zone, reading and story-telling spaces, and art zones; situated peripherally are the music hall, the dramatics theatre, and the dance studio. The Community Centre houses day-care facilities as well as research spaces for early years education methodologies.

The two-storey structure is devoid of sharp lines and stark profiles, favouring curved profiles to envelope the interconnected ‘learning pods’; the undulating façade envelope also provides subtle cues for movement within the campus. A pergola with louvered edges forms the secondary envelope to the built form at the ground level, loosely following the building line and creating free-flowing circulation spaces below.

The design scheme is predicated on the dynamic interplay between the indoors and the outdoors to create a holistic learning environment: pods spill out onto learning decks and outdoor activity areas along the building periphery, low sill levels maintained across the structure ensure consistent visual interconnections, and glass-topped corridors and membrane roofing over shared outdoor spaces ensure that the students can venture outdoors at all times. This interplay is strengthened by the strategic use of indigenous flowering plants and fruit-bearing trees to line the circulatory spaces and outdoor play areas, as a teaching aid for children as well as for visual and environmental control.

The timber-and-white-plaster material palette continues in the interiors, creating a warm and congruous spatial experience with minimal physical or visual barriers; free-standing acoustic partitions and distinct ceiling and wall patterns mark the boundaries of each zone – building visual recognition skills among students without creating boxed-in spaces. The design is also sensitive to the emotional needs of children, and provides cozy nooks for solitary use that can be used for silent reading, individual play, or simply to withdraw from time to time.

Activity zones, whether indoors or outdoors, have been equipped with a variety of play structures to enhance kinesthetics intelligence. A highly tactile spatial experience combined with an open design format incorporated for the reconfigurable equipment encourages children to mindfully assemble play structures of their own imagination.

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