A treehouse! That was the initial idea the kids at Arkki, School of Architecture for Children and Youth, had when they heard they would get to design the interior of an elevator that will take preschoolers from their classrooms to the rooftop playground in Wood City, a showcase of sustainable construction rising in Helsinki’s seaside district of Jätkäsaari.
In the Kids Elevator project, 5-6-year old kids participated in the creative project of their lifetime: They helped to design a part of their living environment in a collaboration project with the Arkki School of Architecture for Children and Youth, KONE, and construction company SRV. KONE created a life-size mock-up elevator for the children’s creative workshop at Arkki so the kids could see their artwork in progress projected on its walls as part of the design process. In an intense hands-on workshop, the kids created a multitude of impressions of leaves and forest, The teamwork forms an all-encompassing artwork in the elevator, that will be unveiled when the building is finished.
“This is an amazing project for children. It empowers them as they have the opportunity to plan and design the interior of an elevator that will take kids and teachers up to the rooftop playground from the daycare center,” says Pihla Meskanen, founder of Arkki.
“This project gives the participating children an important experience of a real-world design process, a unique experience of involvement, and inspires them to look at the built environment in a new way. Another benefit for the children is that they can learn about the building processes. Buildings don’t just rise out of thin air, there’s a lot of technical and architectural design involved, and in this project, children get to be artists and interior designers and see how different professionals work together, ” says Meskanen.
“Participation in designing real living environments will give the kids an experience of getting their voices heard and that the ideas and interpretations of children have worth. It’s a valuable message when bringing up a new generation of active society,” says Teresa Winter, project leader from Arkki.
Arkki pupils have already in earlier phase been involved in innovating the Wood City Kindergarten, where the elevator will be, together with the architects. In addition to the daycare center that will cater primarily for the children of the people working in Wood City, the development will comprise a hotel and residential quarters when complete in 2021.
Watch a video of the project here: Kids Designing for Kids
The power of participation
This is the first time KONE is working with kids to actually design an elevator interior. KONE has the desire to create the best possible experience for the ones riding the elevator the most – children.
“The fact that the elevator’s interior is being designed by children for children will help to ensure that their day at daycare is good,” says Visa Rauta, global product design manager at KONE.
Designing better cities
Antti Aaltonen, development director at SRV, says that Wood City is unique for several reasons, among them sustainable design using traditional material in a unique way. Using wood for this type of hybrid quarter is new, and the sustainability aspect is very clear. In life cycle assessment, wooden buildings on this scale have a much smaller carbon footprint than concrete ones. KONE’s Visa Rauta sums up:
“This kind of project helps to make cities better places to live in. As cities grow denser, there are fewer free playground areas for children. With this type of example, we can spread the word and show how design can improve life in an urban environment.”