Bangkok nowadays has been growing very fast after the advent of the sky train system officially operated in 1999. It dramatically changed the way we live, we interact and look into our city. Located in the heart of Bangkok’s CBD, Purple Elephant is an International School for early year student (18 months to 3 years) which its philosophy is to dedicate a child-centered environment respecting the diversity of children and the uniqueness of each one. Therefore, the school commit to provide an aesthetically beautiful environment that evoke the exploration, the creativity and the knowledge. Landscape Tectonix Limited was appointed as a landscape design consultant for its new campus in 2015. Our mission was to design the outdoor space with various requirements; playground, sand pit, water center, garden including outdoor classroom. Our first inspection at site was very impressive to see an existing mid-century house surrounded by many existing trees. However, the site is not too large and surrounded by one of the high density land-use in Bangkok.
We came up with the design’s key framework that comprehensively based on how to create “the urban ecology” ultimately encouraging “Learning process via outdoor play”… The tools in design were;
1. To keep all existing trees on site and implement local plant that can promote the urban ecology.
2. To maximize virgin green area on ground as much as we can by having all structures to be elevated.
3. To implement all materials which can be totally removed in the future, therefore bamboo, timber and steel are key materials on site.
The space planning started from the survey on all existing trees on site. The planning of all required programs must be precisely located in relation with the existing tree’s location. In order to maximise the green area on ground, the vehicular system must be direct and simple. Vehicular access were in front, direct and short. The walkway system in the garden intended to elevate in order to capitalise a full green area on ground. It served to all functional spaces surrounded by rich landscape as if “the forest” was inside the school.
Inspired by the famous quote of Albert Einstein, “Play is the highest form of research” that initiates the concept that evoke sense of exploration, endeavour the creativity and promote the learning process via “Play” among the natural atmosphere. To move around the garden with the efficient accessibility and safety was the first priority of design, boardwalk with proper pedestrian slope and balustrade were provided and encouraged kids to flow around the garden. The boardwalk went up and down creating the unexpected experience and brought kids to the functional spaces such as outdoor classroom, tiger blind station, sand pit. The details of all seize and stick had been take care of without any screw-head, no sharp edge of railing, and pay attention to kids’ scale.
The design was strategically integrated garden, playground and outdoor classroom as one large garden connected by elevated boardwalk. Each level intended to illustrate different state of learning nature promoting the urban ecology. Start from ground to study the earth and sand. Secondly “The Fallen log” was full of ecology of humus, beetle insects, frog, and low plants. Thirdly “Have seeds will travel” was seeding plants and grasshopper ecology, while the next layer was “Flower blooms” which consisted of medium flowering plants and butterflies. Semi-final layer was “Looking at leaves” full of high shrubs and small trees which children can get to touch them and this layer will give squirrel’s ecology. The final layer was “Get in touch with tree” that they can see the greatness of big trees such as Syzygium malaccense (L.) Merrill & Perry, Antidesma ghaesembilla Gaerth which not only provided birds’ ecology, but also provided canopy for people.
Inspired by the form of hive, the entrance gate and greeting area were unique and mostly cladded with natural material which can be interpreted as a helpful of group of bees or people’s power. This gimmick been using as a moving artifice of the gate which children can play with and become a symbolic detail of this project. This detail also been applied to a detail of bird-blind. A small opening that kids can use their hand clicking open and close to observe birds, insects, and squirrel without disturb those creatures’ life. Moreover, the water center has been created as an outdoor laboratory on the deck, under the shade of big existing tree. Also the entry of building was designed to be a waiting area for parents that the trees have been provided to integrate as part of seat-wall.
Entrant office name: Landscape Tectonix Limited
Role of the entrant in the project: Main landscape architect
Project location (Street, City, Country): Thonglor, Sukhumvit road, Bangkok, Thailand
Design year: 2015
Year Built: 2016