Project Profile: Mi Casita
Mi Casita is a bilingual arts-based preschool and cultural arts center for bilingual families and for those who want to acquire a second language. The center brings together the many cultures that co-exist in Brooklyn, New York, through community engagement and neighborhood exploration, and provides a sustainable, environmentally conscious, caring and nurturing environment rich in both Spanish and English language and culture.
Eva Ruiz, the director of Mi Casita, commissioned Barker Associates Architecture Office (BAAO) and 4|Mativ – two Brooklyn-based architecture studios – to realize a space that exceeds the basic expectations of a preschool, which they achieved beautifully! Eva then reached out to Natural Pod to outfit her Reggio-inspired place-based learning center. She chose our sustainable wooden furniture because of how it supports the Reggio teaching philosophy which values education as a learning partnership between children, teachers and families, and calls for natural, beautiful, sustainable products that invite open-ended play and inquiry.
The 2,500 square-foot building’s lower level houses Mi Casita’s artists-in-residence, co-working areas for working mothers, and lactation rooms. The ground level accommodates various functions from naptime to artist events using furniture produced by Community Playthings and Natural Pod. Their versatile pieces can open up or partition the floor into smaller sections as needed. Multifunctionality extends even to the L-shaped sink in the bathroom, which can double as a space for both hygiene and water-play for children.
As a preschool, Mi Casita fits the proportions of a small child to encourage exploration and curiosity. This essential design consideration extends from tile patterns and surfaces to vantage points based on a child’s height.
“I do think that having experience with residential work brought a ‘home away from home’ reference to the finishes in the space,” says BAAO principal Alexandra Barker. “I think these bright colors and patterns really makes it a little bit more special.”
“It was worth understanding a kids’ visual access and realizing that they have a different viewpoint,” says Barker. “So it was important to create moments where they can see things that adults can’t see. I think it’s empowering for them.”
We were thrilled to collaborate on such a stunning project, you can see from the photos below what a success it is! Thank you to Lesley Unruh Photography