- Project Name
- Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center + Early Childhood Initiatives Center
- Scape Landscape Architecture
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- New Construction
- 45,000 sq. feet
- Shared by
- Project Status
- On the Boards/In Progress
2018 P/A Awards
“For schools in America which need a lot of attention, it deals with many issues quite well, especially the relationship of interior and exterior spaces and the layout, which is quite interesting.” —juror Reto Geiser
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the spectacular artistic storehouse designed by Moshe Safdie, FAIA, for Walmart heiress Alice Walton, will soon be joined by a second outstanding work of architecture driven by the same forward-thinking vision. The Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center + Early Childhood Initiatives Center from New York’s LTL Architects is a monument no less ambitious than the museum that sits directly across from it, although its mission is of a very different sort: Located in the town of Bentonville, Ark., the Waltons’ longtime home base, the center is in a far corner of one of the poorest states in the union, an area that lags behind particularly in the areas of education and healthcare.
The nearly 50,000-square-foot facility is positioned to tackle these problems, housing a programmatic array that includes classrooms, landscaped playgrounds, a “teaching garden,” libraries, training rooms, and additional support spaces to provide a comprehensive battery of development services for the local and statewide community. Formally, the building is expressive of a playful practicality—almost a pinwheel in plan, with four irregular spokes protruding from a central hub. It greets its verdant 8-acre site with a kind of forest of its own—vertical stakes that mark the separate outdoor areas and establish a steady rhythmic pattern around the perimeter. These are complemented by a lattice-like rainscreen of composite material that wraps around the building’s concrete frame, softening the exterior and adding a sequence of interstitial porches between the main envelope and the disengaged cladding.
The interior spaces themselves are configured as individual “houses,” each with a faintly gabled ceiling and a “chimney” aperture that functions as a skylight. At the building’s heart, three classrooms devoted to gross motor skills are shaped by complex warping walls, the building’s spokes colliding in the middle to intricate spatial effect.
Project: Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center + Early Childhood Initiatives Center, Bentonville, Ark.
Client: Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center + Early Childhood Initiatives Center
Design Architect/Interior Designer: LTL Architects, New York . Paul Lewis, FAIA, Marc Tsurumaki, AIA, David J. Lewis, AIA (principals); Clark Manning (project architect); Anna Knoell (project designer); Antonia Wai, Michelle Kleinman, Assoc. AIA,, Jillian Blakey, Corliss Ng, Jenny Hong (designers)
Landscape Architect: Scape Landscape Architecture, New York
Associate Architect: Hight Jackson Associates, Rogers, Ark.
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates Structural Engineers
M/E/P/Civil/Geotechnical Engineer: Harrison French & Associates
Contractor/Construction Manager: Nabholz Corp.
Lighting Designer: Lumen Architecture
Material Consultant: Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design
I.T./Audiovisual Consultant: Dunk Fire & Security
Size: 44,000 square feet
Cost: $14.1 million (construction)
FROM THE ARCHITECTS:
How can a single building have a significant impact on the quality of early childhood health in Arkansas: A state that ranks near the bottom in terms key indicators of childhood health? As 90% of a person’s intellect, personality and social skills are developed by age 5, how can the architecture and landscape of a facility contribute positively to the early childhood experience that is so critical for children’s brain development and future success? This project aims to do just that, by setting an example for what a well-designed early childhood education center, by integrating interior and exterior space. In addition, it gives prominence to the Early Childhood Initiatives Center, a facility dedicated to elevating the quality of early childhood education throughout the region by offering access to training programs, with the goal of raising the certification level of all centers that focus on young children. This 45,000 sq.ft. early childhood education center one of the inaugural Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence projects. This program pre-qualified 32 firms from around the world who met the high standard of design excellence, to “promotes the highest level of design in the development of future public buildings and spaces in Arkansas’ Benton and Washington counties. The program is intended to elevate the quality of architectural and landscape design in the Northwest Arkansas region.” The design for this important structure, that combines the Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center (HWCEC) and the Early Childhood Initiatives Center (ECIC), provides a natural place that inspires children at the critical early years of their development. The design looks to turn the building into a structure that both provides a home for childhood development and learning, and an opportunity to learn from the building about the place in which we live. The 45,000 square foot building is nestled into the open site on J-Street, near the heart of downtown Bentonville, creating a structure that is inviting and integrated into the natural site. A circular driveway around the building gives a gracious entrance to the center, offering a quiet moment of transition each day for parents and children as they make their way to the entrance on the north. The main entrance faces the entrance to Crystal Bridges, with the parking integrated into planting and bio swales to nestle the structure into its site and community.