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Does the architecture of a building have an effect on the lives of the people inside of it? One famous Japanese architect thinks so and we’re pretty convinced now too.

Takaharu Tezuka, a Tokyo-based architect, designed a revolutionary kindergarten building that not only lets the kids run free, but also teaches them about life.

Tezuka’s building for Fuji Kindergarten in Tokyo was completed in 2007. The oval school is two levels with an open space in the middle. It has few walls, but lots of trees growing throughout it. It’s pretty awesome!

▼ The school consists of a ground floor full of classrooms and an open second floor (basically just a low roof), for the kids to play on.

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The premise of the school is to let the kids be free, to avoid controlling or coddling them too much. They have to learn the ways of the world on their own.

▼ Tezuka spoke about his design at a 2014 TEDx event in Kyoto.

Apparently, the principal of the school, who sounds like a really amusing and imaginative guy, didn’t want any safety rails on the second floor of the school, instead, he wanted to put nets up around the perimeter to catch them if they fall off. Unfortunately, government regulations wouldn’t allow this, so he had to compromise.

▼ The kids still like the bars though. They get to sit there during school meetings and hang their legs and arms out.

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Tezuka still wanted to use the principal’s net idea, so he installed rope nets around the gaps in the floor from which the trees protrude. This way, the kids can play on the trees and nets and the teachers don’t have to worry about them falling onto the kids studying below.

▼ We’re pretty jealous right now.

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▼ That looks like so much fun.

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Speaking of studying, the classrooms aren’t really “rooms.” The whole oval is open, so kids can move freely from the outside to the “inside,” from one room to another. Tezuka explains the reasoning for this as, “When you put many kids in a quiet box, some of them get really nervous, but at this kindergarten there is no reason to get nervous, because there is no boundary.”

▼ The classrooms are beautiful.

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So, as kindergarteners, they’re bound to run off in a huff or out of excitement once in a while. Don’t you have to contain them? According to the principal, no, you do not. “If the boy in the corner doesn’t want to stay in the room, let him go. He’ll come back eventually… because it’s a circle.” They leave and they come back, it’s a natural process.

▼ Sure, maybe he’ll miss a couple of minutes of a lesson, but think of what he’ll learn from his experience!

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A big factor for Tezuka while designing the building was the notion that “kids are meant to be outside.” This led to the trees in and around the building for the kids to play on, as well as the school having at least one skylight in every classroom.

▼ How does Santa come into the classroom? Through the skylight!

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There is another section of the school, outside of the main building. It’s just a play area for the kids, but again, it’s not really just a play area. The structure is five meters (16 feet) tall, but has seven platforms with some open edges. Again, the structure is circular because kids like to run in circles.

▼ The open edges around the structure allow the kids to take more risks, to taste danger in small doses and in turn to help each other, naturally.

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▼ “Traffic jam is awful in Tokyo.”

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Thanks to the design of the school and probably in part due to the school’s philosophy in general, Fuji Kindergarten has produced some really active, athletic kids compared to other kindergartens. The kids run an average of four kilometers (2.5 miles) a day.

▼ 4K is a lot for their short little legs!

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Tezuka, the principal, the parents and, of course, the little munchkins, are all really happy with the school’s design. It supports Tezuka’s philosophy of early childhood education:

“Don’t control them, don’t protect them too much. They need to tumble sometimes. It makes them learn how to live in this world.”

Sure, kids can tumble and learn in any old school setting, but it’s the openness and connection to the natural world that sets this school apart. The design of the building harnesses their ability to make their own decisions, to feel free and to learn. The only thing we have to complain about is the lack of grass, but that’s a nationwide issue and a topic for another day.

If you like this, you’ll probably want to also check out Kasahara Elementary School, a.k.a. “The Dragon’s Palace.”

Source: YouTube (TED), Fuji Kindergarten, Architonic
Images: Screenshots from YouTube (Takaharu Tezuka: The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen)