OUT-2 Design creates a dreamlike preschool for WeCare and its children
WeCare is a premium international preschool in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, boasting a multidisciplinary team of teachers and psychotherapists committed to delivering high-quality educational experiences to young children.
The school’s founder, Huong (Victoria) Tran, MSMFT, wanted to create a safe and stimulating space that is designed to maximise the potential of every child. An environment that helps them to explore, create and connect with the world while learning the value of love, respect and diversity. Taking on this unique design brief is the kind of challenge that interior designers crave, but that makes it no less daunting when you consider that this space has the potential to transform the lives of the children who play and learn within its walls. OUT-2 Design were chosen based on their experience in the education sector, their design philosophy and their approach to sustainable interiors.
To Andrew Currie, founder and managing director of OUT-2 Design, it’s clear why they were such a good fit: “In all of our projects there is an element of discovery, but here we could really amplify it.”
Climate change is a real and urgent issue for Andrew. He believes “there can be no question that our negative impact on the environment as humans can and must be reduced.” OUT-2 Design’s policy is to source materials that minimise a project’s carbon footprint, but he is sceptical of the sustainability credentials presented by some manufacturers: “Interface is a stand-out exception, and for many years it has been a leader and a pioneer in this regard, which makes it a logical choice for our projects.”
All Interface flooring is carbon neutral at no extra cost to our customers and carries our Carbon Neutral Floors™ guarantee. This means that our customers can be confident that their floor design has a net-zero contribution to carbon emissions. As with every flooring project we undertake, we issued WeCare with a certificate detailing the sustainability credentials of their new floor. As the project used 865 square metres of carbon neutral flooring, Interface invested in carbon capturing projects on behalf of WeCare that will prevent nine tonnes of carbon dioxide from going into atmosphere. This is the same carbon emissions as a car travelling 35,000 kilometres or driving from Singapore to Mumbai five times over.
Andrew appreciates the fact that our products are aligned with OUT-2 Design’s creative, political and social principles: “Interface is a leader in environmental responsibility and their staff and partners are among the most professional in the industry. We view design as collective creation and a collaboration, so this is important to us.”
In the past his team have found Interface’s broad range of materials, colours and textures a little overwhelming, but this time they worked closely with our in-house design team to realise a complex and compelling flooring design. “This collaborative process allowed us to elevate the design beyond what would normally be possible,” he added.
The finished space is truly remarkable. For the children, it must be just like being in their own real-life cartoon. There are very few straight edges within the space while colour, texture, transitions, doorways and pathways stimulate the senses. The school is bright and unusual without being overwhelming. Every walkway, room and hiding space invites children inside. The flooring plays a very important role in this, moving from carpet, to hard flooring and back again. Here the flooring is promoted to something that can directly engage the user, instead of being a passive part of an interior design.
This use of different textures and unusual transitions is only possible because of the Interface integrated flooring system. Different textures and materials can be combined to create irregular patterns and shapes without the use of transition strips. The angular patterns of Drawn Lines, a hard-wearing luxury vinyl tile interplay with soft, textured carpet from the Human Connections collection and Net Effect, a carpet tile containing recycled fishing nets. This is used to create small tricks of the eye wherever you look. Doorways seem to cast an impossible shadow, crawl spaces reflect their shape onto the floor and colours from the walls merge into the floor.
Although the space only has windows on two sides, natural light is maximised using portholes and glass walls to project the light into the double height rooms and corridors. As the sun moves across the sky the changing light transforms the colours and spaces. The corridors create drama and intrigue by twisting through the building and obscuring the final destination – evidence of OUT-2 Design’s trademark discovery philosophy.
The high ceilings also created a design challenge for the team. There was a fear that some sensitive children could be disturbed by the high exposed ceiling and ducting work, so LED cloud-shaped lights were installed. This cleverly diverts attention away from anything scary and adds to the dreamlike quality of the classrooms.
WeCare’s staff love how the space feels much bigger than it is and that there is always something interesting to discover. Andrew tells us that he gets the most satisfaction from seeing people make discoveries and engage with the spaces that his team create, “and to witness the joy this brings.” You can tell that this is the most rewarding part of his job when he says, “The children particularly like the corridors, the way they seem to never end, and how they are filled with interesting portholes, small doorways, and nooks they can occupy and hide in. A favourite safe space is the egg chair that sits next to the communal art space, and everyone loves the cloud lights!”