Wondrous Light Children’s House

CHANG Architects

This is a children’s activity centre in Singapore offering a living, breathing form of education. It promotes self-discovery – being conscientious of oneself through exploration of the senses, physical movement, and interaction with others and the environment. It is about cultivating one’s will and the faculties of feelings before one is intellectually ready for academic study and information gathering.

The space is about making connections to the environment, humanity, the cosmos, and all of life’s experiences as these unfold through daily encounters. Located in a shophouse in the Kampong Bahru area, the space was designed by CHANG Architects with a child’s scale, perspectives and psychology in mind. Children move through and dwell in crafted spaces that offer a variety of spatial experiences and support emotional development. Varying planar qualities expressed through natural and recycled plywood panels offer different sensorial experiences via changes in texture, line work and form.

Devoid of the large, colourful graphics that are common in most preschool centres, here it is the spaces that set the backdrop for the children’s activities, at the same time arousing a sense of curiosity and imagination. The emphasis here is not on ‘head-learning’ but ‘limb-learning’; it is about experiences, enhancing the senses and feelings; the concern for children as embodied beings engaging with the material world; and the importance, richness and value of experience as a source of knowledge. Learning consists of an element of will, which is closely tied to the body and the senses, as well as emotion and cognition.

This project offers an alternative setting for nurturing preschoolers. This is not a preschool, nor a child-care centre, nor a kindergarten. It does not aim to ‘educate’ children through introducing academic concepts nor exposing them to the latest digital technologies. Instead it offers a ‘home environment’ where children feel most calm and secure, where they can grow to enjoy free, self-directed play; and where they can develop a sense of empathy. Through exploration and enhancement of their senses, children can become emotionally stable, authentic, imaginative, and conscientious of their state of being.

Although Wondrous Light Children’s House is located in a relatively small conservation shophouse, it has much to offer for a happy childhood, as can be seen in the confident, contented and joyful faces of the children here.

Photography: Albert Lim K.S.