Highline Community College Child Development Center

Des Moines, WA

Located on a forested corner of the Highline Community College campus, this early childhood learning center provides full-time care for infant to preschool-age children of the college's students and staff. th+a architects designed the building footprint specifically to minimize the impact of construction on the beautiful Pacific Northwest site.

Modeled on a Reggio Emilio community concept, the individual buildings link to completely surround an interior courtyard, presenting a village of unique spaces for exploration and learning. The central courtyard is used as an outdoor classroom, with places for nature experiments and plant gardens, and incorporates a reading nook surrounded by boulders.

Visibility of all areas is a key for security, but also provides a unique opportunity to serve as a working laboratory for students of the college's early childhood education program.

Each of the classrooms is paired to share support spaces like diaper changing, toilet training, storage and food preparation, and are arranged to allow convenient access for caregivers. Covered porches at each classroom create sheltered outdoor spaces adjacent to age-appropriate play areas which spill out into the wooded site.