Brooklyn has seen its fair share of design-forward schools and playgrounds open during (and perhaps in spite of) the pandemic. Now, the latest to debut is a BAAO Architects-designed preschool in Williamsburg that contrasts child-sized fixtures and furniture with a central two-story atrium.
The entire program of the 11,000-square-foot City Kids Education Center revolves around that central indoor courtyard lit by street-facing storefront windows, with niches carved from the thick bounding walls that double as reading spaces and the front reception desk. Each of the ground-floor cutouts was wrapped in the same wide plank resilient flooring from Roppe used underfoot to create a visual homogeneity. One level up, the Brooklyn-based BAAO has outlined the windows of what the studio calls the “interior facade” in geometric acoustic felt panels. Aside from breaking up noise in the courtyard and preventing echoes, the felt lends each cutout a distinct profile and identity.
The City Kids Education Center contains six preschool classrooms arranged around the atrium, as well as bathrooms and communal sinks demarcated by tile. Each of these areas was built using half-height walls to afford the children privacy while still allowing teachers to keep an eye on them.
Upstairs, BAAO has created an after-school gathering place for elementary students. Lockers line the common areas, as do stepped seating arrangements clad in the same flooring material in the adjacent lounge. Specialized classrooms for STEM, cooking, and theater classes are also located on the second floor for those older children.
As with any education project realized during the COVID-19 pandemic, BAAO has also integrated a number of new hygiene measures. That includes upgrading the HVAC system with microbe-killing ultraviolet light filters, the introduction of operable windows in classrooms, and touchless security and check-in stations.