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Cultivating curiosity through clever design

In Fujian, China, POAN Educational Institute belies its own humdrum name and cultivates active early learning, thanks to a clever design by CUN PANDA.

That “curiosity killed the cat” is perhaps one of the most ill-advised old wives’ tales of them all. Today, progressive early learning centres all over the world are proving quite the contrary. POAN Educational Institute designed by CUN PANDA, in Fujian, China, is one of them.

Don’t let the humdrum name fool you – this educational institute is anything but ‘institutionalised’ in its approach to design for early learning. Located in Fujian’s core business district, POAN comprises part of a well-developed community, where the flow of people is active and abundant. To design an agile learning space that would aptly reflect POAN’s core concept – cooperative construction, learn and grow – CUN PANDA’s approach was as holistic and considered as an ancient Chinese proverb, and the result has a similar sense of resolve.

“If we say that life is like a thick forest, then the children are the small saplings waiting to grow,” says CUN PANDA, “what the designers need to do is to create an area where these saplings can thrive.”

Measuring a modest area of 600-square-metres, CUN PANDA got crafty with the space and created a multi-dimensional route for children to explore. Acting as an alternative to the passageway for children to transition between spaces and intentionally designed to be lively and exiting, this is a space that stimulates children’s desire to explore. At the same time, by means of elevating rather than miniturising, CUN PANDA has put teacher and pupil on the same level.

“For us, a child-themed space design, no matter how large or small should be entirely for the sake of children,” says the designer, “we try every means to stimulate their imagination, and try our best to cultivate their independence.”

Throughout POAN Educational Institute, clever design works to make the space – and, by extension, what happens within it – interesting and engaging for children, while simultaneously empowering teachers to be spontaneous and diversified in their approach. It is through this aspect that “both teachers and children can actively participate in the construction of knowledge,” says CUN PANDA.

Photography by GL Yang

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