UCLA Early Care and Education Center
In UCLA's strategic plan, campus leaders cited access to child care as one of the three most critical factors in recruiting and retaining top faculty, an essential step to maintaining academic excellence. The university engaged th+a architects to design a high quality child care program to support their strategic plan and to complement existing UCLA educational programs in early childhood development.
Given the urgent need and lack of suitable on-campus space, the design team worked to convert the fourth level of the Westwood Marketplace shopping center, the former site of a Longs Drugs store into space appropriate for childcare use. The team worked closely with the fire marshal and building code agencies to gain approval for the facility's child care use.
The final design provides light-filled, colorfully detailed spaces with a strong indoor-outdoor connection throughout the fifteen classrooms and administrative areas.
The design team devised a number of unique solutions in order to accommodate the center's program on the site. Most important was the need to provide a large outdoor classroom/play area for the center, which the team accomplished by repurposing a former retail parking area on the top deck of an adjacent parking garage. Care had to be taken in detailing playground structures on the roof of the parking garage so as not to damage the existing concrete parking deck. Site-appropriate safety and comfort features included fall zones of EPDM matrix surfacing material as well as artificial turf for green play areas. Lightweight shade structures and trees in planters protect the children from the Southern California sunshine.