Maple Street School, located in the rapidly changing neighborhood of Prospect Lefferts Gardens, in Brooklyn, was looking to expand into a second location and found a fitting site in a new mixed use development. BFDO and 4|MATIV collaborated to provide the cooperative school with a design program that would fit their spatial and curricular needs, focusing on open and flexible spaces with elements that promote their educational philosophy.
The preschool sees itself as an extension of home, where cooperation and involvement are emphasized, where each child is nurtured in a warm and caring atmosphere, and where curiosity and play are central to learning. These concepts shaped the design process and its outcome, as the designers looked for highly functional solutions to meet their needs.
The core of the floor plan lies on four interconnected main areas: a multipurpose room and three classrooms. The school’s practice of scheduling “cafe” time, daily group gatherings centered on snacks and promoting healthy eating habits and social engagement, inspired the inclusion of a central and semi-open kitchen located in the multipurpose room. The flexible kitchen design has open and closed states, and was conceived to allow a variety of backdrops and graphics to cater different kinds of activities, such as the setting of themed inspired food trucks.
The classrooms are connected through large pairs of pocket doors with playful openings, allowing interaction between classrooms and among children and staff. These large doors provide flexibility for larger school events. Shared semi-open bathrooms are treated as focal points and also function as connecting elements, while providing the required visibility for staff members. Large trough-like play sinks run between classrooms and bathrooms, and become a key feature in promoting learning through water play and interaction.
A warm and light palette of maple wood and white walls runs throughout all spaces. The simplicity allows surfaces to act as backdrops for all the hands-on artwork that children create, which is contrasted with accents of color, either through the soft pastel tiled bathrooms, or bright-colored edges at the pocket door openings. Among these accents is also a maple peg wall located at the school’s entry area. Its fun and colorful pegs help entertain the children and ease the daily transition into school.
An outdoor recreation area on the building’s rooftop currently carries a colorful rubber tile pattern with a large pixelated graphic of islands. The space is framed by a combination of warm cedar fencing and a patchwork of perforated aluminum screening. Planned additions to this space are an outdoor classroom with a green wall to expose children to nature and plants, as well as a play structure.