Complementing the residential portion of this project is the integration of a early childhood education center for 135 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 5 years (infants through pre-kindergarten). With changes in family structures and the increasing requirement that both parents work to meet the challenges of living in cities, the role performed by early childhood education centers in the long-term development of children is increasing in importance. Unfortunately, a significant number of such facilities are limited by tight budgets and compromised facilities. This competition asks students to carefully consider the spatial, material and organization of this key educational facility in the development of young children from scratch. Careful attention needs to be placed on the choice of materials to support the growth of infants and young children whose bodies are highly susceptible to the influence of their environment, and the interrelationship between interior learning space and exterior playscapes in a city where children have limited access to outdoor learning environments.
The early childhood education center will provide 10 individual classrooms broken down by age, from infant continuity rooms, to preschool and then prekindergarten. Children attending this facility are to be drawn from the new housing on the site, and the surrounding neighborhood. These classrooms are complemented by gross motor rooms (playrooms), indoor and exterior play/inquiry area, and staff and administrative support spaces. With classrooms dedicated to pre-kindergarten aged children, this program intentionally dovetail into the New York City Universal Pre-K (UPK) program launched in 2014. The program enables students in the country’s largest public school district to begin school a year before kindergarten – this year, over 70,000 4-year-olds were enrolled in the program across the five boroughs.