PAL Design Group

52Arts is an art school for kids located in the Bao’an district of Shenzhen, China. The brief given to PAL Design Group was to create a school for kids of 3 to 12 years of age that hosts a comprehensive range of art classes for Western painting, Chinese painting, pottery and crafts. The designers drew inspiration from art galleries in terms of creating an environment that would encourage conversation and the exchange of ideas among kids, parents and teachers. The venue balances its educational program with a character that is bright, carefree and welcoming.

Apt to bringing kids smiles, the entrance zone is well-lit, bright and welcoming, and was inspired by art tools in warm pastel colours. Structural columns have been sculpted as floor-to-ceiling-height paintbrushes and paint tubes that leave trails of colour across the interior. These give rise to a series of coloured lines that link various spaces, such as the reception and the kids’ gallery. Behind the reception, wooden ‘houses’ suggest a nurturing environment where new journeys of discovery and exploration can begin.

The library area offers an airy reading environment, where group learning in the form of storytelling encourages kids to learn from each other. This space is imaginatively lit by translucent flying books. Lovely surprises also await in the washroom, which is wrapped by a curvaceous wall that echoes throughout the interior. The sink was custom-made in the form of a ‘bucketful of water’ falling overhead. The intention was to stimulate the children’s curiosity and invite interaction with the space.

Both purpose driven and mentally stimulating, the design presents children, parents and teachers with an unexpected spatial experience designed to inspire creativity and encourage them to appreciate beauty – just as the founding principles of the school suggest. Rather than being forced through another after-school class in a typically cramped and rigid teacher-versus-student setting, children are offered an open and stress-free learning environment that puts safety and children’s requirements first.

Photography: Dick Liu