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Islandview Early Childhood Education Center







Detroit, Michigan, USA

Sam Luong

Inspired by Motown and how music impacts the development of children between the ages 0 to Pre-K, an early childhood education center in the suburbs of Detroit was therefore conceived.

To maximize the small site, the ECEC took on an efficient building form by dividing its functions into three architectural parts:

  • the West Wing, which comprises of only classrooms;

  • the Atrium, located in the center that connects all three levels together in a north-south axis; and

  • the East Wing, which contains an Auditorium, admin offices, and the children's Play Space

Cladded in corten steel, a rainscreen metal panel system dominates the ECEC's facade aesthetic.


The warm tones of corten steel, coupled with the playful use of repetitive musical frit patterns, represents how young children see and hear music during their musical discovery period.

Safety and security are a major theme to the ECEC. As such, both Wings can only be accessed through the Atrium space along its primary North-South axis. A school bus drop off zone in front of the building also allows the young children to be picked up and dropped off to and from home directly.

Upon arrival, one will notice that ground floor access is only limited to the admin offices, washrooms and the Auditorium. By restricting public access to the classrooms on the West Wing and the Play Space up above, the building's design is able to protect the children who attend the school.

Perhaps one of the more interesting design elements of the ECEC are the six solar chimneys that impale the East Wing. Not only do they provide a sense of transparency to these stacked spaces, but the chimneys create negative spaces within the Play Space for children to hide and frolic around.


Furthermore, these glazed chimneys allow children to experience Auditorium performances from a secured space, thus exposing them to music at every possible opportunity.

From a Wellness and sustainability perspective, the solar chimneys naturally ventilate the Auditorium to provide thermal comfort. Since this area is heavily glazed with floor-to-ceiling curtain walls on three sides, it was imperative to design an energy efficient HVAC strategy.

On the West Wing, a comfortable school experience that embodied Wellness was the focus. Although these attributes are subtle, they are important environmental factors that contribute to the overall development and productivity of children. These features include:

  • high quality air via an energy efficient HVAC system;

  • potable water for drinking fountains that is integrated with a rainwater collection system;

  • ample daylight from high ceilings;

  • views to green bodies outside;

  • a green wall in the front entrance atrium;

  • encouraging staffs to use stairs for movement by expressing them near the Atrium's entrances

  • a thermally comfortable building by utilizing zoned spaces;

  • a water-tight and well insulated building envelope that supports thermal comfort;

  • a Smart Technology-driven origami ceiling tile that responds to acoustic levels in the classroom;

  • an improved mental well-being through the exposure of music

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