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©smith-clementi 2020

CalTech Childrens Center

Pasadena, California

Caltech's LEED-Gold-certified childcare center cultivates qualities of curiosity and inquiry through the integration of S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) into the daily life of each age group. At the heart of the center lies the arroyo, a dry streambed carved into the site’s sloping contours. The arroyo is designed to support and expand the school's educational mission of encouraging children to play, explore, discover, and engage with the world. Filled with local granite, native grasses, bugs, birds, and lizards, the arroyo acts as a bio-swale, filtering and dispersing rainwater collected onsite and stored in large cisterns. Through observation and play, the children learn about the preciousness of water in California’s arid climate.  The arroyo links the discrete play yards for children of each age group.

 

Three separate buildings distributed around the play yard contain the classrooms and administrative programs. Infant rooms are located in the quiet and lowest, southern end of the site, far from the adjacent tennis courts and buffered from parking lots by administrative and service wings. Toddlers congregate in the center of the campus between the youngest and oldest residents. Pre-schoolers occupy the highest point, at the northern end of campus.

 

From the colorful furniture to the whimsical animal graphics to the low toilets in the bathrooms, everything about the facilities and landscape is scaled for kids aged 6 months to 6 years.  Dutch doors open at the top and the bottom; windows set at a knee-high eye level allow children to look in, out and discover.

 

This project was a National Design-Build Project Team Award winner with MATT Construction and Rios Clementi Hale Studios.