Opened in 2019, the SolBe Learning Center in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, is revolutionizing early childhood education. With the help of Supernormal, a renowned multidisciplinary design firm, the center has reimagined the traditional classroom, creating a unique learning environment that promotes creativity and engagement.
A Novel Approach to Learning
Supernormal, based in the neighboring town of Somerville, collaborated closely with the founders of SolBe to develop a groundbreaking model that blends classrooms and open spaces. This innovative approach centers around two distinct areas: Vivienda, the classroom area, and Patio, an open space for various activities.
“The SolBe Learning Center challenges the conventional notion of a classroom, moving away from the traditional enclosed space of around 10 square meters per child,” explains Supernormal. Instead, they have reenvisioned the classroom as separate activity areas, each with its unique spatial characteristics aligned with the specific activities taking place within.
Creating a Whimsical Learning Space
The meeting classes within the SolBe Learning Center feature sculptural blocks adorned with vibrant wallpapers. Oak floors, cream-colored walls, and wooden trim create a warm and inviting atmosphere. The centerpiece of the classroom is the corrugated roof, constructed using a thin, plaster-finished metal frame, designed to amplify the effects of indirect lighting.
Elizabeth Bowie Christoforetti, the director at Supernormal, explains, “The shape of the ceiling allows for beautiful indirect lighting in the Residence, creating a serene and magical ambiance in the learning space.”
Balancing Focus and Play
Acting as an “island” in the open space, Vivienda provides a calm and focused learning environment, while the Courtyard is dedicated to fun activities, dining, and group interactions. This oscillation between focused learning and free play territory reflects the innovative program, adapting to the evolving needs of children throughout the day.
Harnessing Natural Light
The open areas of the SolBe Learning Center feature soaring 4.5-meter-high ceilings with a skylight opening, covered by a white soundproof panel. Natural light streams in, allowing children to experience and observe the ever-changing interplay between light and weather throughout the day.
A Community Center with Boundless Potential
When not in use as an educational facility, the SolBe Learning Center serves as a community center, offering weekend events, music lessons, and continuing education courses for adults. This multipurpose space embodies SolBe’s inclusive approach to early childhood education and community living.
“The possibilities this space and its underlying philosophy hold are immense. They have the power to redefine our experience of early family life in America, regardless of circumstances or existing norms,” explains Supernormal.
The SolBe Learning Center has already received acclaim and was shortlisted for the 2019 Dezeen Awards. The center’s innovative design aligns with the growing trend of reimagining schools and daycare centers across the United States, such as the Big and Tiny center in Los Angeles, which offers co-working spaces for parents and wooden play areas for children.
- Architect: Supernormal
- Design Team: Elizabeth Christoforetti, Nathan Fash, Laura Brooks, Michelangelo Latona, and Wen Wen
- Contractor: Stack + Co
- Lighting Design: Lam Partners
- Code Query: Red Code
- Structural Engineer: CSR Associates
- MEP: Allied Consulting
- Client: SolBe Learning Uno
For more information on Supernormal’s pioneering designs and the SolBe Learning Center, visit Caravansarai.