There are rites of passage we all must go through, some more difficult than others. This week marked a tough one for me, one that’s had me excited, sad and nervous for months (okay, years if we’re being honest). I’m sure many of you can relate.

Yes, friends, my little boy started kindergarten this week. I’ve pondered the question over and over: how did this happen? He’s just a baby! But no, he’s a big boy who’s ready to learn and have fun (dinosaur backpack and all).

So how interesting that this week I happened across one of the most amusing school projects I’ve ever seen.

Located in Okazaki, Japan, MAD architects has completed the Clover House kindergarten. According to information from the architects, the kindergarten was originally operated out of the old family home of siblings Kentaro and Tamaki Nara, who wanted to create a modern, educational institution where children could feel as comfortable as they do in their own homes, allowing them to grow and learn in a nurturing setting.

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MAD was commissioned by the family to transform their two-story house into a fully developed educational institution. This began with an investigation of the existing 105 square meter house, which was first constructed as a standard prefabricated house.

I love that architects describe the new form of the house as a magical cave or a pop-up fort. Because really, what kid doesn’t want to go to school in a cave or a tent?

cloverblog3The new school incorporates a number of whimsical features. In fact, According to the architects, “the windows, shaped in various geometries recognizable to a child’s eye, allow sunlight to sift through and create ever-changing shadows that play with the students’ curiosity and encourage imagination.”

cloverbloginside2As Ma Yansong, founder and principal partner of MAD Architects, stated, “We have designed the building from a child’s point of view, and the layout focusses on creating intimate and diverse spaces.”

I love that—and it gets better.

Yansong says, “We wanted to create a playful piece of architecture that would stay in the memory of the kids when they have grown up.” And you know what adds to that sense of playfulness—and is something they will never forget? A slide, but not just any slide. This one takes the children from the second floor of the building to an outdoor play area and an open courtyard in front of the building. They get to play on their way to play!

cloverblog4Where was this school when I was a kid?

Best of luck to all the moms and dads sending their kids off to school, whether kindergarten or college. It’s a sad but exciting time for us all.

Photography: Fuji Koji, Dan Honda