Helen R. Walton Children's Enrichment Center

Helen R. Walton Children's Enrichment Center + Early Childhood Initiatives Center

Bentonville, AR
Ongoing, estimated completion December 2018
45,000 sq. ft.

Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence project

LTL Architects in collaboration with SCAPE Landscape Architects have designed the Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center (HWCEC) and Early Childhood Initiatives Center (ECIC):  a model early childhood and training facility.  This project is one of the first of the Walton Family Foundation’s Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence program, a pilot project with the goal of elevating the quality of architectural and landscape design in Northwest Arkansas. 

The design for this important structure provides a natural place that inspires children at the critical early years of their development.  The design turns the building into a structure that both provides a home for childhood development and learning for 240 children, and an opportunity to learn from the building about the place in which we live.  The 45,000 square foot building is nestled into the open site on J-Street, creating a structure that is inviting and integrated into the natural site.   A ring of vertical tree-like poles forms the perimeter of the project, providing the structure for the protective enclosure around the 3 large exterior playscapes, and marking the edge of the buildings four wings. At the entrance, this sequence of poles extends out from the building forming an engaging canopy of supports for weather cover and providing places for play, sitting, signage and illumination.

The main building is organized into 4 wings, with access to exterior views and air being a central feature of each.  ECIC is located at the north side of the east wing while the administrative rooms of HWCEC is on the north side of the west wing, both facing toward the entrance.  The intersection of the 4 wings forms the heart of the building. This central heart provides a key gathering point for children and their families, and provides a clear and welcome entrance for daily delight.  21 classrooms comprise the majority of the building, and each classroom has direct and immediate access to the age-appropriate playscape.  A covered and secure exterior porch-like play area outside of each classroom provides opportunity for supervised play, effectively extending the interior classroom into the exterior. The three playscapes are designed to meet the different ages and abilities of children, and reflect the natural ecology of the karst landscape of Arkansas, with the more complex and varied landscape designed for the older children. 

Overall, the design for the HWCEC + ECIC endeavors to provide a place of community in Bentonville. This project acknowledges the importance of this site to the city at the gateway to Crystal Bridges.  Through the use of natural elements and in the engagement between landscape and architecture, the design recognizes the importance of nature in the growth and development of children and in the creation of spaces of delight and learning.  

 

Project team: Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, David Lewis; Clark Manning, Anna Knoell, Antonia Wai, Michelle Kleinman, Jillian Blakey, Corliss Ng, Jenny Hong
Landscape Architect:  SCAPE Landscape Architecture
Structural Engineer:  Silman
Mechanical and Civil Engineer:  Harrison French and Associates
Lighting Design: Lumen Architecture
Architectural Consultant:  Hight Jackson Associates
Contractor:  Nabholz Construction

Publications:
"Early Childhood Initiatives Center to Break Ground on $16.5m Facility." Arkansas Business, October 10 2017
Franklin, Sydney. "How LTL Architects Sourced Materials for a Healthier Children’S Center." Architizer, December 1 2017.