A colourful children’s paradise

The Bear Cave nursery transports everyone who sees it back to their own childhood. In the small town of Esens in the East Frisian district of Wittmund, about four kilometres from the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea, the architectural firm of Ralph Thater has created a real children’s paradise on behalf of the association of local authorities.

Troldtekt acoustic ceilings in institution for children and youth
Photo: Dieter Nöth

With a usable area of almost 2,000 square metres spread over two floors, up to 166 children in a total of seven groups have plenty of space to play, romp, discover and rest.

Solid flat-roofed new building with colourful façade elements

The sizeable new build with a flat roof was built on an unused agricultural area between the Esens-North school centre and a newly developed site, and stands out through two protruding building components. The façades are positively eye-catching because they are not only plastered in different techniques, but also vary in colour. A real eye-catcher is a dark red façade carpet, which appears here and there.

Floor-to-ceiling windows, which extend over both floors and the entire length of the back of the building, allow considerable light to diffuse into the interior of the day nursery. Thanks to its spacious, open design, it is inviting, bright and welcoming. Walls with colourful paints or in natural wood contribute to the feel-good atmosphere and create a homely ambience.

An open design and yet absolutely safe

The absolute attraction for all children is probably the long slide, from which they can launch themselves directly into their mum’s or dad’s arms at the end of the day. The slide is located right next to the main solid wood staircase leading to the upper floor from the large foyer and entrance area, which can also be used for events.

As the central foyer is open to the top, the upper floor is completely visible. Of course, the safety of the children comes first, so the planners have opted for a special concept – this is only the second time it has been used in this form in a German nursery.

There are no conventional railings, but a tight, stainless steel mesh, which spans like a net across the entire height of the upper floor, from the floor to the ceiling. This also ensures that children cannot climb over parapets or throw objects into the entrance area.

The mesh features sophisticated wooden play boxes that serve as retreat areas and at the same time afford the children a new view and perspective into the space.

All day nursery groups have internal stairs to move easily between the ground floor and upper floor and have the use of large climbing and play facilities in two spacious exercise areas. Because there are sufficient escape routes, the children – unlike in many other day nurseries – are even allowed to use the corridors to play.

Good sleep and fresh food

Of course, there are also sufficient nap areas for the children, which can also be monitored from the group room and can be used very flexibly thanks to different sleeping levels and pull-out drawer beds.

In the large kitchen area, which includes a wash station and teaching kitchen with an attached dining area, food can be freshly prepared for the children, and the teachers can also cook and bake together with the children.

Apart from the tiled kitchen, all other rooms have uniform striped vinyl flooring, which is visually perfectly matched to the bright ceilings.

Troldtekt panels for perfect acoustics in day-to-day nursery activities

The ceilings showcase the clever solution for optimal acoustics, one of the biggest challenges in the construction of nurseries. For children and teachers, the reverberation time should be kept as low as possible in order to avoid unpleasantly loud noise while also increasing the comprehensibility of sounds and speech. At the Bear Cave nursery, this is achieved with Troldtekt acoustic panels, fixed in differing patterns both on painted wall areas and on the exposed concrete ceilings.

The cement-bonded wood wool panels in the colour natural wood are decoupled from the walls and ceiling in a shadow joint construction, including an insulation layer. This increases the sound absorption and considerably exceeds what is required by law. The combination of painted and untreated surfaces also creates a modern and harmonious contrast in combination with the creatively designed acoustic panels.