Early Learning Sanctuary

by Freight Architects

These projects are representative of how Singapore has shifted her early learning emphasis from a classroom based learning to an outdoor learn and play environment. These two projects are pioneer projects that explore integrating learning centres into parks and creating biophilic spaces in re-adaptive spaces.

Sengkang Riverside Park Childcare Centre

Sengkang Riverside Park Preschool embodies the Singapore Identity and Architecture. Just as Singapore is a City in a Garden, the schools is a Preschool in a Garden. It has become an icon for Sengkang community and a case study on how we can re-use park, re-site schools and re-engage community.

In building SKLCC, we started with one thought: integration. We proposed a ‘rolling hill’ concept that would merge the building mass with the park, while providing a whimsical but exciting narrative for children as the ‘hill school’. The building adopts a crescent form around an existing park sculpture with an access road cutting through the building. The green roof is supported by steel ribs that open up towards the edges, merging into the landscape. The two ends of the hill are tapered to reduce mass at the edges, while maintaining a very high volume at the central atrium. Classrooms are situated at both wings flanking the central atrium park. The central park is fully sheltered but open at both sides for natural daylight and ventilation. This area provides a garden setting upon arrival at the entrance and an airy indoor space for children’s learning. The classrooms also open out at both sides to wide semi-outdoor corridor spaces for sheltered learning and sand/water play, extending also to motor skills training.

Photos by Darren Soh


01 - Aerial view of centre nestled within a HDB preccint 02 - Crescent shape roof view 03 - View of centre with LRT from HDB blocks 04 - Atrium space with indoor garden 05 - Semi-outdoor extended classroom play area

Radin Mas Childcare Centre

Radin Mas Childcare Centre is part of a future masterplan, entailing a demonstration of heartland rejuvenation and adaptive reuse of old school compounds into new community facilities. The central theme for the childcare centre is: to experience and form connections to Nature. Aiming to draw children out to the outdoors, to enhance one’s encounter with nature through all the five senses, and to allow nature to inspire us through an experience of awe. With all these aspects combined, this urban intervention aspires to create a new outdoor pedagogical model.

How would one create a safe and open environment for them to wander outside?

We started to imagine a ribbon trail which strings all the indoor and outdoor pavilions together, forming one continuous loop protecting the biophilic sanctuary. It also creates an instinctive boundary to shelter children, through the internally roof, from the natural elements (such as rain), within a secured learning environment. This ribbon also changes in level basing on the ground profile and physically link up the building on the 2nd storey. It allows children from both levels to access the garden easily anytime. The orange ribbon link-way over the green landscape not only give the centre its iconic look, it is also a representation of orange ribbon movement which symbolises Racial Harmony in Singapore. This is especially important for an early children learning centre as it inculcates Singapore’s values of multi-racial, multi-religion and united society.

Photos by Darren Soh


01 - Drone view of orange ribbon protecting an inner sanctuary 02 - Aerial view of ribbon linking to conserved class room block 03 - Classroom linking to ribbon 04 - Ribbon snaking through the biophilic playscape 05 - Dry stream learning zone

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