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Big Oak Child Care Center
Madison, Wisconsin

Historically the Ellefson home on Winnebago Street, Big Oak Child Care has been a neighborhood favorite for a generation of parents of preschoolers. However, the 100+ year-old frame building had always had interior layout problems as a childcare center, inherited from its roots as a home. The good news is that the parent-run center had planned prudently, were in good financial condition, and they were finally ready to make significant improvements.

(below) Before remodeling & additions

The building's problems were those shared many other child care facilities which occupy the left-over spaces across the nation: it didn't meet current building codes, had poor wheelchair accessibility, inadequate heating and ventilation, and years of deferred maintenance. Much of the site was consumed by parked cars. Staff offices, reached by narrow, damaged stairs, were crammed into an unheatable attic.

However, the main challenge was circulation. Clear access from front to rear was impossible; everyone needed to traipse through through classrooms constantly, even at nap times.

The breakthrough was designing a major addition to the side (above, at right). This solution allowed space for a central corridor, enlarged classrooms and new kitchen and offices.

What started as a playground design consultation became a full-on gut remodeling project. The only wheelchair accessibility was to the ground floor level, meaning a new elevator was needed, above at right.