Architectural ingenuity creates a kid-centric wonderland

by Ofentse Sefolo
Architectural ingenuity creates a kid-centric wonderland

You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”
Dr Seuss

Traditionally, a library is a cathedral for books, a museum for stories, where silence is law and the librarian rules.

Inspired by the wisdom of the Dr Seuss quote mentioned above, what could have easily been just another ordinary library was turned into a magical world, giving scholars of King David’s School in Sandton access to one of the most imaginative spaces.

Here a kid-centric backdrop dwarfs the books into a celebration of reading. The space is full of life, where the stories on each page almost come to life thanks to the magical surrounds that is the new Elements Library at the King David School.

Asher Marcus, owner and architect at Hubo Studio says, “We looked to flip the traditional idea of a library on its head by creating a kid-centric backdrop for exploring and imagining – a relevant space where the story can leave the book, be told and be experienced.”

By working with the elements of air, earth, fire and water, the Hubo Studio has transformed what was previously a clinical space into a beautiful wonderland.

Welcome to the Elements Library!

As you sit under the canopies in a forest on a puffy soft snake and gaze at the stars, experiencing the planets up close, you learn about our galaxy. You can read under the sun, or experience reading up high in a cloud and feel the air between your toes! You can dive into the deep, deep ocean and see a life-size baby Humpback whale floating beneath the waves!

You can find Wally in the largest Where’s Wally in Africa, explore the continent and its map, or play chess on the desk or scrabble on the wall.

This is a space for *readers*, a space *to read*, a space where books can come alive and become stories. We created a backdrop, a set where kids can find the magic of books outside and inside the book. In this incredibly crafted universe, each element speaks worlds,” says Marcus, explaining the design vision.

Creating a shared vision
What started as a structural revamp, turned into a captivating project, thanks to a generous and well-travelled donor, a team of kid-centric architects and a school body who initially needed convincing, but soon shared the vision to use the allocated funds to create something extra ordinary.

Specialised flooring solution
Once all the stakeholders were sold on the “Elements” theme, the construction called for an equally extra ordinary product to seamlessly integrate the theme with the library’s flooring. Thanks to a long-standing collaboration with the team from FloorworX, a product called Marmoleum was specified as the ideal solution.

Marmoleum is a natural linoleum floor covering designed and manufactured using 100% green electricity. It consists of linseed oil, natural resins, wood flour pigments and inorganic fillers calendered in two layers on a jute backing.

“It is naturally antibacterial and is finished with the factory-applied Top Shield two-surface treatment for ease of maintenance, which eliminates the need for waxing or sprayed refurbishment during the life-time of the product,” explains Tammy Botha, Account Executive for FloorworX.

These qualities, the fact that dirt does not show and because the product is monolithic, makes for easy installation.

The most appealing factor was that with this product we could create the specified organic shapes, whilst knowing that we are installing a hardy product that only needs to be wiped down, making it ideal for kid-centric spaces and institutions, notes Marcus.

Overview of each quadrant
Marcus points out that the space is governed by kids, for kids and that Hubo Studio’s aim is for each of the spaces to encourage transportation into a different world, allowing the kids to become so engulfed in the space that they want to learn more and interact with what surrounds them.

Each of the quadrants is enhanced with stories or topics from books as a backdrop. They feature unique shapes that create comfortable reading nooks where each element transports the reader into their own space.

In addition, the quadrants are rounded, creating a seamless flow from one to the other, with no harsh barriers or dividing elements. This unique feature adds to the fluidity and openness of the space, encouraging interaction and collaboration.

Air – float away on cloud
The air element was designed with “being in the clouds” as the main theme. Here a mostly white space featuring a mezzanine level emulates cloud-based learning, with the stairs doubling as seating, while a space for collaboration between teacher and student takes place in a calm and serene setting.

Earth – get lost in a lush green forest
Bright green tones were used alongside peapods for seating to mimic being in a lush forest. The wooden pods extend from the roof creating comfortable seating, where the reader is almost cocooned. Puff snakes wrap around the columns, creating additional seating and reading space.

Water – Go wave surfing with the whales
Water-like features such as PVC pipes create a wave formation and the life-size baby humpback whale suspended from the ceiling seems to be effortlessly swimming at your side. Seating in rotating clam-chairs adds to the feeling of floating in water. Here the scale and proportions are subtle reminders of the importance of maths and science and features the library’s non-fiction book section.

Fire – Camping under the stars
This quadrant features the biggest Where’s Wally in Africa, a giant scrabble board and tepees in which one can curl up and read while looking at flames dancing on the tipi’s roof. Housing the largest open floor section, the fire quadrant was created as a story-time space or for group discussions and interactions that are enabled by simply grabbing a pillow from the wall and finding a space to sit.

Planetarium roof – look up
The roof of the building represents a planetarium, featuring various planets, solar systems and stars and reminds the kids that each of the elements are encapsulated by the universe. Looking up reminds us that we have much to learn about the universe.

Final word
This kid-centric project, while showcasing the ingenuity and immense creativity of the architect and design communities, has also delivered a new benchmark in kid-centric spaces and their design. It also highlights the importance of all stakeholders working towards a shared vision to ensure that the final result surpasses the client’s wildest expectations.

For more information on this project, visit www.hubostudio.com or contact FloorworX:
Tel: 0860 346 679
Email: info@floorworx.co.za
Website: https://floorworx.co.za/product/products/marmoleum/

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