At the Fuji Kindergarten in Japan, Tezuka Architects created a unique environment that, as a tool for learning, promotes freedom of movement. “Ring Around a Tree” is the extension of an existing kindergarten that consists of a wood and transparent glass volume spiraling upward, enveloping a Japanese Zelkova tree. The project creates spaces for play and foreign language instruction, while also providing a fun area for the children to wait for the school bus.
Though, to the average adult, the space appears to have just two floors, for the children it has six with some areas being just three feet (one meter) high. Elements like railings and handrails are very slender, while the interior floors are made of wood. All outdoor areas are covered with soft rubber mats to help cushion the children's inevitable falls.
Planted more than 50 years ago, the Zelkova tree has quite the storied past. It was hit by a typhoon and almost uprooted. The tree dried out completely but recovered despite general disbelief. Older residents of the area remember this Zelkova because it was the only tree to be used by children for climbing and games even before a kindergarten ever existed.