Many children's make believe adventures revolve around wooden forts in the mountains; the new Teton County Children's Learning Center by Ward+Blake Architects and D.W. Arthur Associates Architecture has captured this dream in the wilds of Jackson, Wyoming. This children’s daycare facility reflects the rustic decor of the Teton region, while achieving LEED Gold certification with an energy-efficient, low-impact design.
Creatively named “The Ranch,” the Rafter J Childcare facility was designed by the team of architects to achieve three objectives: to fit into the ranch-like neighborhood, experientially stimulate the children, and to achieve LEED Silver certification. Boston-based D.W. Arthur Associates Architecture was brought into the project by local firm Ward+Blake Architects to bring some expertise in childcare design to the table. It’s fitting that D.W. Arthur’s mission is to educate children through experiencing their spatial environment.
The exterior of the building celebrates the regional vernacular ranch style of the local neighborhood, and it incorporates many natural materials in its skin. Made from rammed earth, cedar wood, weathered wood, glass and steel, this 12,000-square-foot facility rises and falls almost as if mimicking the surrounding mountains. Beaver slide-like enclosures and other slatted fences help to break up the exterior of the building, while creating shading devices for the building. Various shed roofs allow for natural light to penetrate deep into the building through angled clerestory windows. Also, many of these shed roofs are covered with sod in order to control storm water runoff.
As the children enter the building they are met with a “family-room” concept corridor where gently curving walls help to create interactive spaces that lead to private rooms. The interior classroom spaces are designed with stained concrete, bright colored walls, and floating cloud-like ceiling tiles that help to capture the children’s imagination.
Other sustainable features include an onsite geothermal system that provides for 50 percent or more of the building’s energy. A computerized system also helps to control the natural and artificial light throughout the building. These along with other building components helped to make this project achieve a LEED Gold rating in the end. This really is a learning center that inspires imagination.