Early Learning Village, Singapore

A world first in pre-school facilities, the ELV delivers a multi-cultural, flexible environment with capacity for 2,100 children from nursery to kindergarten age, as well as 400 support staff

The Early Learning Village represents an extraordinary milestone in the delivery of international pre-school education. This remarkable, ground-breaking school was designed by leading architectural studio Bogle Architects for the global schools operator Cognita. The Early Learning Village accommodates two of Cognita’s schools in Singapore: The Stamford American International School and The Australian International School.

The design is radically innovative and despite the impressive scale of this institution, the 54,000 sqm building, while rigorously logical, is filled with visual delights creating a configuration to which both children and staff can relate. The school is specifically designed to enhance children’s learning experience by offering a spectrum of lively learning environments filled with colour and sunlight. While the teachers enjoy an adult’s perspective of the spaces, Bogle Architects have created a dual environment by including child-sized doors, work-benches with steps for children of different heights, and signage at children’s eye-level and on the floors.

Cognita’s brief stipulated that this ambitious project should be a model for future schools of this nature, providing facilities rarely seen in pre-school buildings: external discovery play zones, a swimming pool, a flexible multi-purpose hall, and specialist subject classes for art, music and dance. The key challenges were to ensure that the significant volume was not intimidating for small children, to clarify circulation given the scale of the school and to design a building that was essentially playful and fun as well as flexible enough to accommodate changing market conditions.

The architects explored the relationships between children of different ages, and the building’s organisation clearly reflects the varied requirements of an 18 month old baby and a 6 year old child, with the most expansive green spaces at lower levels to be occupied by enthusiastic 4 and 5 year olds and adjacent to spacious parent cafés.

The Reggio Emilia philosophy places great emphasis on children’s physical environment. Bogle Architects set out to create an environment that was open and engaging while full of natural light and external awareness. The varied spaces range from intimate areas of sensory learning to more expansive areas of external play for social interaction, recognising that a range of spatial experiences is critical in children’s development. Low level ‘child height’ window seats for children allow them to explore their surroundings or read a book for cerebral development, while external physical activities in the swimming pool, multifunction hall or external play spaces provide for physical development.

Chris Jansen, Cognita CEO said,

“We know that the highest quality experience, at the earliest stages of learning, will reap benefits at every step of a child’s subsequent educational journey – and beyond. An essential aspect of that experience is the educational environment itself. The Early Learning Village is an unparalleled project, reflecting Cognita’s conviction in Early Years education as the all-important foundation for an individual’s success in life. It is both innovative and inspiring – a breath-taking design that is at all times centred on the child and the exploration and discovery they need to flourish.”

Ian Bogle, Founding Director of Bogle Architects said,

“The challenge here was not to celebrate the scale but to make the building feel small, curious and playful – just like its occupants – and we have created a wealth of exciting and intriguing spaces. This complex project has been a challenging exercise in terms of connectivity and vertical transportation, to ensure that significant numbers of teachers and children can orientate themselves easily around the building. The result is a building that feels both intimate and personalised, visually complex yet legible and provides a rich learning environment for pupils, parents, and staff.”

There was no rule book for designing a project of this typology and scale, so Bogle Architects went back to first principles, taking the analogy of the ‘nursery at the end of the street’ as the initial building block – typically four classrooms organised around a central space with external play space of circa 100 children. Through a process of analysis and modelling, the stacked arrangement of these ‘building blocks or clusters’ with their projecting canopies has created a playful environment that also provides necessary weather protection. The other driver informing the design is the abundant use of green space and greenery. The Design has been informed by two eminent Early Years specialists – Rosie Long from the UK and Gary Moore, an architect and Professor of Environment & Behaviour studies at Sydney University, whose combined expertise focuses on the well-being of children in a learning environment.

Adam Patterson, Head of Early Years, Australian International School said,

“The Early Learning Village is a one of a kind place for young children. Nowhere I have worked in has paid such attention to the needs of the children who will use the space. Space, Light and Time – these are the gifts to the teachers and children of the Early Learning Village. It is a living breathing part of what happens every day. From the living walls coming to life with flowers and native bees to the shared spaces that children are discovering around every corner, there is something that is exciting and something that creates a sense of wonder. Parents and children do not want to go home. The ELV’s design and intent is all about community and relationships a place where lasting friendships for both children and adults are built.’’

Eric Sands, Superintendent of Stamford American International School, Singapore said,

“The Early Learning Village is a stunning new facility that is educational by design and purpose-built to give our youngest learners the room to grow and the space to encourage their natural curiosity. Each classroom features an adjoined discovery space and is created to adapt to the changing needs of growing children. The outdoor learning and play zones spark imagination while the 20-meter swimming pool and indoor space for sports and performances enhance the physical experience for children. Bogle Architects has managed to capture the ultimate learning experience for children while designing an unparalleled facility in the world of Early Years education.”

Project Details:
Client: Cognita
Design Architects: Bogle Architects
Local Architects: Architects 61 Pte Ltd
Cost Consultant: WT Partnership
Engineering/Structure and Civil Consultants: AECOM (UK and Singapore)
Landscape: Coen Design International Pte Ltd
Main Contractor: Lendlease
Early Years Educationalist: Rosie Long
Education Design Advisor: Professor Gary Moore (Sydney)