Best Educational & Institutional Projects of 2019

Music centers, libraries, high schools, student housing, and book shops are all covered in our yearly round-up of standout educational & institutional projects. The following are Interior Design's 10 favorites of 2019—and they include a Best of Year Awards honoree for Primary/Secondary Education.  

Avenue Green Sheshan Kindergarten in Shanghai by ELTO Consultancy

Two hills surrounded by a forested park make up Sheshan, a leafy suburb of Shanghai. Although just a 30-minute drive from downtown, the district feels far from the city’s gleaming skyscrapers, imposing Bund-side colonial structures, and neon lights, thanks to its rolling greenery (shan is Mandarin for hill). It’s this setting that informed Chloe Liew, founder and design director of ELTO Consultancy, when imagining how a private kindergarten in Sheshan should look and feel. The project was a 2019 Best of Year awards honoree for Primary/Secondary Education. Read more about this project.

Hele International Art Center in Wuhan, China by Pone Architecture

Moms and dads will vividly recall the moment when their child first pipes up with an insight that leaves them breathless. Exactly that occurred while Pone Architecture design director Ming Leung was playing with her 4-year-old daughter at home in Guangzhou, China. “When bubbles meet the ceiling, why do they burst?” the girl asked as she watched soap bubbles float upward. “Why doesn’t the ceiling burst?” In that eureka moment, bubbles became the central concept that Leung and design director Golden Ho would subsequently explore for an arts academy in Wuhan. Read more about this project

Wolcott School in Chicago by LVDA

A private Chicago high school for students with learning differences is proof that working under constraints can inspire creativity. When Lothan Van Hook DeStefano Architecture was tasked with building a 16,000-square-foot arts and athletics building for the Wolcott School, the firm was restricted by the tight one-acre site and a low budget. The result is a study in making the most of a simple material. Read more about this project

Helas House in Shanghai by KCA/Kostas Chatzigiannis Architects

A glimpse through the iron gates into the front courtyard of Hellas House in central Shanghai is enough to give even casual passersby an inkling that the building is taking design cues from somewhere other than its colonial-era surroundings. The pair of imposing Ionic columns guarding the entrance is a dead giveaway. Hellas is the name Greeks use for their homeland—officially the Hellenic Republic—and the job of transforming a 1930s brick-and-wood villa into a center for the nation’s culture fell to one of their own: expatriate architect Kostas Chatzigiannis, who has lived in Shanghai since 2007. Read more about this project

Music Center Plaza in Los Angeles by Rios Clementi Hale Studios

Music Center Plaza, the once-sunken nexus between three of Los Angeles’s cultural landmarks—the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Ahmanson Theatre, and the Mark Taper Forum—has undergone a $41 million renovation by Rios Clementi Hale Studios. The project took almost two years to complete and officially debuted in late August. Read more about this project

Arvo Pärt Center in Lailasmaa, Estonia by Nieto Sobejano Arquitecos

Like the soft keystrokes of the piano in composer Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, the Arvo Pärt Centre eases into its Nordic, pine-forested surroundings. The 30,000-square-foot center is located in Laulasmaa, a seaside Estonian town, its purpose to maintain the famous composer’s archive. Spanish architects Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano won a two-phase competition to design it with their thesis that links music and architecture. Read more about this project

Biblioteca Central y Archivo Municipal en Leganes in Spain by BN Asociados

Thousands of pigmented ceramic half cylinders represent book spines as they cover 23,000 square feet of surface area on the new library in Spain by BN Asociados that has been nearly a decade in the making. Read more about this project.

The Center for Fiction in Brooklyn by BKSK Architects

One more Manhattanite has migrated to Brooklyn. The Center for Fiction started out as the Mercantile Library in 1821 and moved locations throughout Manhattan over the years. In 2008, it was rebranded, and more than 10 years later, the Center has a permanent home in a new downtown Brooklyn building by BKSK Architects with sustainability in mind. Read more about this project.

Campus1MTL by Entro

Any design-minded student in Montreal will no doubt find inspiration in Moshe Safdie’s timeless Habitat 67 complex—but its legacy doesn’t end in the classroom. Branding and environmental design firm Entro looked to its beautiful Brutalism when devising a graphic identity for Knightstone Capital’s Campus1MTL, an independently-operated student residence within a building by Diamond Schmitt Architects. Read more about this project.

OK Center in Romania by Cumulus

The OK Center in Bucharest is more than just an after-school spot for Romanian teenagers to take courses geared toward financial literacy. In the words of concept architect Yasmin Asan, whose firm Cumulus designed the interiors, it’s an “anti-boredom place.” No yawn-inducing grids of desks and chalkboards here. Read more about this project

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