Educare Early Learning Center
The experiences we have in childhood indelibly shape our perspective on the world around us. The spaces we inhabit and the communities we interact with are equally significant determinants of these childhood experiences.
White Center has one of the most ethnically, linguistically and economically diverse populations in Washington and yet it has a strong sense of identity and community. Its children are consequently subject to unique challenges and opportunities. When King County Housing Authority embarked on its HOPE VI redevelopment of a decrepit housing estate in White Center into the new community of Greenbridge, Puget Sound Educational Services District was given a remarkable chance to rebuild its Head Start program facilities and to reassert its commitment to the White Center community by expanding early learning opportunities. The new Educare Early Learning Center was envisioned as a nurturing home-away-from home for children, an experientially rich environment for learning, and a focus of community energy.
The facility consists of 10 classrooms, outdoor play areas, professional training rooms, and a ‘community commons’. The client’s interest in transparency as an experiential learning tool was a key design driver. In almost every space one is aware of the outdoor play areas, the interior pathway, light from the sky above, and the boulevard to the North. Material choices reflect both sustainability criteria and the desire for a stimulating sensory environment: a radiant floor slab, warm wood ceilings, cold steel columns, smooth terrazzo, rough stone sculptures, colored glass and pigmented cast resin. In the outdoor activity spaces, plantings of various textures, scales and fragrances, create zones for active play, for observation of nature, and for quiet contemplation.