Architecture for children benefits from a playful approach

To build good architecture for children, you must take them serious as users and consider their unique perspective in the design.

That is the message from two experienced architects, Prof. Jens Ludloff and Nathalie Dziobek-Bepler. Done right, architecture can support the children’s development of both body and brain.  

Photo: ©Anne Deppe

Always approach the task from the perspective of the children. That is the main advice for building quality day care facilities from two experienced German architects, Prof. Jens Ludloff from Ludloff+Ludloff and Dipl.- Ing. Architektin Nathalie Dziobek-Bepler from Baukind UG. With a nationwide shortage of day care facilities in Germany, demand for new institutions are expected to increase in the coming years, providing ample opportunities for those with the desire and knowledge to build architecture that supports imagination, playfulness and development.

– Children’s architecture is a very specialized field with lots of regulations and need for planning. It requires specialized knowledge of for example safety regulations, but it is playful work which benefits from a playful approach. Good architecture can support children in their development by creating opportunities for practicing their social skills and motor skills, says Nathalie Dziobek-Bepler, who has specialized in children’s architecture since she founded Baukind eight years ago.

Her perspective is echoed by Jens Ludloff, who’s recent work includes the SOS Kinderhof Botschaft für Kinder in Berlin.

– In our experience, building for children requires different forms of communication than building for adults, at least if we take them seriously as users with independent needs. This means that for the engagement with the users, who spend a part of their lives in our architecture, a suitable form must be found, e.g. in the form of workshops, so that specific needs can flow into the design process, says Jens Ludloff.  

Building for growing bodies and minds

Creating good day care facilities means designing architecture that suit not only the needs of the children, but also the adults who care for them. This includes accounting for different teaching and pedagogy philosophies as well as enabling different personalities among the children.

– In our designs, we always try to encourage independence by ensuring that the children can do as much as possible on their own, such as wardrobes with accessible hooks and water faucets that can be operated by small hands. We like to place windows in most walls, so the children can observe each other at play. It is also good to provide spaces where the children can be by themselves, says Nathalie Dziobek-Bepler.   

Photo: ©HEJM

As anyone who has observed a child for more than 2 minutes know, the movements and activities of children are quite different from those of adults. Good children’s architecture provides ample opportunities for running, climbing, crawling and jumping.

– We try to include multifunctional elements in all our designs. For example, a round washbasin in the toilets that the children can run around, mattress storage that function as climbing platforms and hiding places and hidden crawlspaces under stairs and through walls. Especially in inner cities like Berlin, where outside space is limited, it is important to encourage movement regardless of the weather and access to outdoor play areas, says Nathalie Dziobek-Bepler. 


Reshaping buildings for children

In many cases, designing a day care facility does not begin on a blank canvas, but rather by transforming an existing building.

– We have a future of conversion and reconstruction in front of us. The resource consumption of our construction industry and the imperative reduction of grey energy will place the conversion before demolition and new construction. This thinking is only just beginning, but if we take the social and energy issues seriously, it is the logical consequence, says Jens Ludloff. 

Nathalie Dziobek-Bepler estimates that 70 percent of Baukind’s work is done with existing buildings, and they use elements such as colors, room dividers and acoustic panels to adapt the building to the children.   

– We work a lot with colors and shapes to provide the children with a group identity and help them find their own area. For example, by giving each group a distinct animal and mono color, and then using the colors of all groups in the common areas. We always put a lot of emphasis on acoustics, since it is very important for the wellbeing, even if you don’t notice it consciously. This is mainly done with acoustic ceiling panels, although we sometimes use panels on the walls as well, especially in older Berlin buildings, where ceiling height can be an issue, says Nathalie Dziobek-Bepler.

Dipl.-Ing.Architektur Nathalie Dziobek-Bepler, Baukind UG.

©Christoph Musiol

About Baukind

  • Established in 2011, Baukind specializes in children’s architecture.
  • Baukind works mainly in Berlin but has done projects over most of Europe.
  • The architecture firm has 13 people on staff, including product designers and landscape architects.
  • A key philosophy of Baukind is to take a holistic approach to design, shaping everything from rooms and playgrounds to doorknobs and soap dispensers to the child’s perspective.

Prof. Jens Ludloff, Ludloff+Ludloff.

About Ludloff+Ludloff

  • Ludloff+Ludloff was established in 2007 by Laura Fogarasi-Ludloff and Jens Ludloff.
  • The firm has realized internationally acclaimed buildings for teaching, training, sports and living.
  • Ludloff+Ludloff has won numerous awards, including an Iconic Award and BDA Berlin Prize for the SOS Kinderhof Botschaft für Kinder in Berlin.

THEME: Build better childcare institutions

The number of children is on the rise in several northern European countries, and thus also the need for new childcare institutions. It is important to take the children’s perspective in the design of the new institutions, and for the architecture to support the development of mind and body.

On this theme page, Troldtekt A/S focuses on how to build better childcare institutions.