The brief for Ora was a tall order. The client, the government-led Future Collection, asked the Roar team to create a space for pre-schoolers where the learning experience could turn innovation into a habit. The design needed to respond to the institution’s four pillars: leadership, happiness and positivity, advanced sciences and artificial intelligence, and technology and coding. ‘[Because] that’s the biggest challenge facing education designers: we’re preparing children for jobs that don’t yet exist,’ explained Pallavi Dean, the studio’s founder.

In other words: Ora needed to be the nursery of the future.

To deliver, Dean and her team first analysed how the vertical student-teacher relationship functioned in regular nurseries. They then decided to remove as many barriers between the two groups as possible, by making the spaces fluid and free-flowing, with curved ceilings and walls. This was easier said than done, though: they achieved the right effect by using parametric planning and working with a (very surprised) Dubai boat builder to bring the design to life.

Then, based on paediatric neuroscience research, they refrained from using bright colours and cartoon characters. Instead the surfaces are neutral, in order to promote human-centred stimuli. Instead of screens, technology is integrated in an understated way into the floors and walls, so that it can promote discovery and become a silent educator.

Beyond this, the overall design was inspired by a protective cloud – a motif that becomes literal in the Mars Lab group space, which features a ‘reading cloud’ inside the library.

As Roar design director Agata Kurzela explained, the key question for the project was, ‘would a young person feel safe and happy enough to really be authentic here?’ The Roar team believes it does, as Ora now reaches still-open minds at a critical moment in their development. ‘These children are highly impressionable, so the impact of interior design on their emotional and physical well-being is crucial,’ said Dean.

Roar, formerly Pallavi Dean Interiors, is nominated in the Emerging Designer of the Year category in the 2019 Frame Awards. You can support the studio in our Public Vote or attend the ceremony this 20 February in Amsterdam by buying your ticket here.