Mt Hood Community College Early Childhood Education Center
The Early Childhood Center replaces an existing facility at Mount Hood Community College. During vision sessions, the College was drawn to creating an environment that allows seamless transitions between indoor and outdoor learning and play. Concepts identified by Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods, helped drive the design, which promotes strong connections to nature. Set on a former parking lot but surrounded by mature fir trees, natural and man-made environments form an engaging network of playgrounds, eco systems, gardens, and interior play areas. Children enjoy ample opportunities for exploration, creativity, free-thinking and interaction; they can “get dirty” by playing in the sandbox with a water hand-pump or with floating ducks in the wet-play area.
Conceived as a village of small play-learn communities, the center resembles a cluster of houses. Lower ceilings respond to the scale of the children. Clerestory windows suffuse play-learn spaces with daylight while maintaining a low volume. Internal and external transparency ensures supervision while connecting the children to their surroundings and each classroom to the greater community.
Drawing inspiration from patterns of daylight, weather and the seasons, play-learn spaces have varying degrees invite poetic reflection, joyful play, and relaxation. In the play spaces, deep walls offer window niches and benches that children can claim for themselves, and provide abundant, accessible storage in each room. Operable windows, daylighting, solar panels, a high efficiency envelope, and open storm water treatment reinforce connections to nature with a healthy, resource efficient facility.