A Kindergarten Near Montreal Uses Wood to Sustainable, Biophilic Effect

Montreal firm Taktik created a light-filled space with sophisticated materials to help enliven learning and exploration.

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At Académie des Sacrés-Cœurs outside of Montreal, Taktik Design updated early childhood spaces with features that evoke the idea of home, such as house-shaped bookcases. Courtesy Maxime Brouillet

Creating education spaces for small children brings its own unique set of challenges: Pedagogical requirements for play apparatuses get heaped on top of the usual criteria of welcoming, safe, and fun design. That complexity is what makes Taktik Design’s simple update of a Quebec kindergarten worth scrutinizing.

The Montreal-based firm renovated four classrooms and corridors in Académie des Sacrés-Cœurs in the suburb of Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville.

The client needed larger classrooms, better breakout areas, and a general feeling of well-being throughout. Taktik’s approach was to rely on the basics. “We picked imagery that kids at this age would understand,” explains interior designer and project manager Andrée-Ann Daniels.

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Choosing wood as a chief material brought nature into the classroom. Daniels’s team deliberately left the pine elements unfinished. “We didn’t want it to be literal,” she says. Instead, for a real connection with nature, there are generous expanses of windows and graphics of mountains on walls. There is also a house motif, considered comforting for kids. Designers repeated that in the shapes of cabinet doors.

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Prominent in each classroom is a loft-style, tree house–like platform. Courtesy Maxime Brouillet

In each space, using input from the teachers, Taktik built tree house–like structures to enliven learning zones. Children can ascend them to reach a platform enclosed by a transparent railing for safety. This way, they can break off from groups to explore while remaining in the teachers’ sight lines.

Taktik renovated hallways by lining them with functional built-in bookshelves, writable surfaces, and seating. The move extends the teaching environment and makes the once-dead space more productive. “It’s a wide corridor. Previously it was only a transitional space,” says Daniels. The fact that wood is locally sourced Canadian pine and that MDF cabinets are treated with the firm’s own nontoxic, water-based varnish is an additional source of pride.

“A cornerstone of our design is sustainability,” says Daniels. That’s good news for students and teachers alike.

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