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TEDxKyoto

Takaharu Tezuka: The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen

September 28, 2014

At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Meet: the world's cutest kindergarten, designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In this charming talk, he walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids.

Takaharu Tezuka - Architect
Architect Takaharu Tezuka creates imaginative and versatile personal spaces. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
This is a kindergarten
we designed in 2007.
00:17
We made this kindergarten
to be a circle.
00:21
It's a kind of endless circulation
on top of the roof.
00:25
If you are a parent,
00:28
you know that kids love
to keep making circles.
00:31
This is how the rooftop looks.
00:36
And why did we design this?
00:39
The principal of this kindergarten said,
00:41
"No, I don't want a handrail."
00:44
I said, "It's impossible."
00:47
But he insisted: "How about having a net
sticking out from the edge of the roof?
00:49
So that it can catch
the children falling off?"
00:55
(Laughter)
00:57
I said, "It's impossible."
00:59
And of course,
the government official said,
01:01
"Of course you have to have a handrail."
01:04
But we could keep
that idea around the trees.
01:10
There are three trees popping through.
01:13
And we were allowed to call
this rope as a handrail.
01:16
But of course, rope has nothing
to do with them.
01:22
They fall into the net.
01:25
And you get more,
01:29
and more,
01:32
more.
01:35
(Laughter)
01:36
Sometimes 40 children
are around a tree.
01:37
The boy on the branch,
01:43
he loves the tree
so he is eating the tree.
01:44
(Laughter)
01:47
And at the time of an event,
01:50
they sit on the edge.
01:52
It looks so nice from underneath.
01:56
Monkeys in the zoo.
01:58
(Laughter)
02:00
Feeding time.
02:04
(Laughter)
(Applause)
02:06
And we made the roof as low as possible,
02:12
because we wanted to see
children on top of the roof,
02:15
not only underneath the roof.
02:19
And if the roof is too high,
you see only the ceiling.
02:22
And the leg washing place --
there are many kinds of water taps.
02:27
You see with the flexible tubes,
02:32
you want to spray water
to your friends,
02:34
and the shower,
02:37
and the one in front is quite normal.
02:38
But if you look at this,
02:41
the boy is not washing his boots,
02:42
he's putting water into his boots.
02:44
(Laughter)
02:46
This kindergarten is completely
open, most of the year.
02:53
And there is no boundary
between inside and outside.
02:59
So it means basically
this architecture is a roof.
03:03
And also there is no boundary
between classrooms.
03:07
So there is no acoustic barrier at all.
03:11
When you put many children in a quiet box,
03:15
some of them get really nervous.
03:21
But in this kindergarten,
03:24
there is no reason they get nervous.
03:26
Because there is no boundary.
03:30
And the principal says
03:33
if the boy in the corner
doesn't want to stay in the room,
03:35
we let him go.
03:39
He will come back eventually,
because it's a circle, it comes back.
03:40
(Laughter)
03:44
But the point is,
in that kind of occasion,
03:48
usually children try to hide somewhere.
03:51
But here, just they leave and come back.
03:54
It's a natural process.
03:58
And secondly, we consider
noise very important.
04:00
You know that children
sleep better in noise.
04:07
They don't sleep in a quiet space.
04:13
And in this kindergarten,
04:17
these children show
amazing concentration in class.
04:20
And you know, our kind grew up
in the jungle with noise.
04:27
They need noise.
04:33
And you know, you can talk
to your friends in a noisy bar.
04:35
You are not supposed to be in silence.
04:39
And you know, these days
04:43
we are trying to make
everything under control.
04:45
You know, it's completely open.
04:52
And you should know that
04:53
we can go skiing in -20 degrees in winter.
04:56
In summer you go swimming.
05:02
The sand is 50 degrees.
05:05
And also, you should know
that you are waterproof.
05:08
You never melt in rain.
05:11
So, children are supposed to be outside.
05:15
So that is how we should treat them.
05:18
This is how they divide classrooms.
05:22
They are supposed to help teachers.
05:24
They don't.
05:27
(Laughter)
05:29
I didn't put him in.
05:35
A classroom.
05:39
And a washbasin.
05:42
They talk to each other around the well.
05:44
And there are always
some trees in the classroom.
05:48
A monkey trying to fish
another monkey from above.
05:55
(Laughter)
05:59
Monkeys.
06:01
(Laughter)
06:02
And each classroom has
at least one skylight.
06:04
And this is where Santa Claus
comes down at the time of Christmas.
06:09
This is the annex building,
06:19
right next to that
oval-shaped kindergarten.
06:21
The building is only
five meters tall with seven floors.
06:25
And of course,
the ceiling height is very low.
06:31
So you have to consider safety.
06:33
So, we put our children,
a daughter and a son.
06:37
They tried to go in.
06:43
He hit his head.
06:47
He's okay. His skull is quite strong.
06:51
He is resilient. It's my son.
06:55
(Laughter)
06:58
And he is trying to see
if it is safe to jump off.
07:00
And then we put other children.
07:04
The traffic jam is awful
in Tokyo, as you know.
07:12
(Laughter)
07:15
The driver in front,
she needs to learn how to drive.
07:16
Now these days,
07:21
kids need a small dosage of danger.
07:23
And in this kind of occasion,
07:30
they learn to help each other.
07:33
This is society. This is the kind of
opportunity we are losing these days.
07:37
Now, this drawing is showing
the movement of a boy
07:47
between 9:10 and 9:30.
07:54
And the circumference
of this building is 183 meters.
08:01
So it's not exactly small at all.
08:07
And this boy did 6,000 meters
in the morning.
08:11
But the surprise is yet to come.
08:15
The children in this kindergarten
do 4,000 meters on average.
08:19
And these children have
the highest athletic abilities
08:27
among many kindergartens.
08:34
The principal says,
08:43
"I don't train them.
We leave them on top of the roof.
08:44
Just like sheep."
08:51
(Laughter)
08:52
They keep running.
08:54
(Laughter)
08:56
My point is don't control them,
08:58
don't protect them too much,
09:03
and they need to tumble sometimes.
09:06
They need to get some injury.
09:10
And that makes them learn
09:14
how to live in this world.
09:17
I think architecture is capable
of changing this world,
09:23
and people's lives.
09:30
And this is one of the attempts
to change the lives of children.
09:33
Thank you very much.
09:40
(Applause)
09:41

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Takaharu Tezuka - Architect
Architect Takaharu Tezuka creates imaginative and versatile personal spaces.

Why you should listen
Takaharu Tezuka and his wife Yui make up Tezuka Architects. Together they have built schools centered on trees, play areas created from interwoven wooden beams and hospitals that offer patients the healing gifts of joyous light and space. It is this same breathtaking light and space, sketched out with clean lines of wood, metal and glass, that are the hallmarks of each of Tezuka’s projects. Since establishing the firm in 1994, Tezuka and his team have created buildings that transform mere walls and windows into living — and livable — art.
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