The Los Angeles studio of Perkins&Will has unveiled The Nest, a state-of-the-art early childhood education center in an underserved neighborhood of Los Angeles. The center is part of the Hope Street Margolis Family Center, a community health, education, and recreation resource of Dignity Health – California Hospital Medical Center (CHMC). The Nest is a no-cost, high-quality nurturing environment for up to 32 children whose parents are looking for job placement, returning to work or experiencing homelessness.
Perkins&Will created the innovative, indoor/outdoor design pro bono in collaboration with Hope Street and its partners.
“The Nest joins an excellent preschool environment with practical innovations specific to its space,” said Perkins&Will designer Aram Guzman. “Studies show the importance of environment in early health and development, and this design provides it for a community that needs it just as much as those that benefit from private or other privileged preschools.”
Along with Perkins&Will designer Ashley Stoner, Guzman and team conceived the name “The Nest” as a metaphor for healthy education. “We want to give children room to spread their wings and learn by exploring their imagination in a place of safety,” said Stoner.
The Nest design reflects this approach. Retrofitting St Mark’s Lutheran Church’s original 1971 building and vacant original preschool space, the team exposed the high ceilings and divided the main interior with custom felt curtains that slide aside to create one large classroom and modulate acoustics. Also separating the spaces are colorful custom shelves for reading, stacking blocks, and other stimulating activities.
“Play is built directly into the design,” said Stoner. “The sense of freedom and exploration in a secure environment is essential to quality preschool education. It will follow these toddlers throughout their lives. This is a small project with a large impact.”
Other design highlights of The Nest:
- The flex curtains reflect environmental cues. Teachers can modify the space to respond to circadian rhythms, including sleep patterns, and encourage patterns of behavior.
- An outdoor perimeter encloses the space. The designers established multiple play yards—essential during pandemic and post-pandemic times—surrounding the classrooms for a direct visual connection to outside play space.
- Removing grills from windows while adding windows and glazed doors visually connects indoors and outdoors while offering healthful and energy-saving daylighting.
- Child scaled elements including windows in doors, shelving, playful nooks, and even oversized light fixtures foster a sense of wonder and autonomy as the children move and interact with a space designed especially for them and a collaborative curriculum.
- By using bright expansive colors in a modern way, the design reflects subtle nods to vibrant aesthetics that resonate with the population to be served at “the Nest.”
“Every member of our team brings the very best of ourselves to create forward-looking, inclusive, sustainable design solutions in our communities,” noted Guzman. “The Nest is one of our many social purpose initiatives that support the communities within which we work. We are thrilled to be associated with Dignity Health – California Hospital Medical Center and Hope Street Margolis Family Center in the creation of The Nest.”
Perkins&Will’s Social Purpose program provides pro-bono professional services to nonprofits for whom such services would otherwise be out of reach. These projects address human needs, including affordable housing, childcare, healthcare and education.
“One of the greatest impacts of the pandemic has been job loss,” shares Alina Moran, CHMC Hospital President and CEO. “For families with young children, finding new work can be challenging, and affordable child-care resources are limited, which is why we are so proud to provide exceptional indoor and outdoor space for low-income children to learn and grow who may otherwise not have access to such services.”
Marking Hope Street’s fourth early care and education center, The Nest is expected to open this fall and provide full-day, year-round, center-based services for low-income toddlers and preschoolers (2‒4 years of age) including children with special needs. The Nest is in South Los Angeles, one of L.A. County’s highest-need areas for early education services. This project would not have been possible without the commitment of many donors, in-kind sponsors and community partners. The project was completed by a design-built team of Slater Builders (contractor), Penta Building Group (playground construction) and Lionakis (architect of record).