XCL World Academy (XWA) is a lovely close-knit community of international students and their families in Singapore. Arete Culture were brought on board for the design process to create a warm and energetic fitout. XWA has a vision to encourage children to aspire, act and grow into their full potential, so they wanted to create an inspiring learning environment. Mission accomplished!
Caroline Chin Geyler, Founder of Arete Culture, on being commissioned for the fitout
“We were excited but apprehensive because we’d never designed and styled a school before. Since we’d worked with the clients in a personal capacity prior to this project, we knew expectations were high. And we didn’t want to disappoint! Personally, though, this job was so gratifying – I come from a small town in Malaysia and knew from an early age the importance of education. I love that we were able to work with XCL World Academy on creating an environment that is not only conducive for learning, but also welcoming and reflective of the community they are building.“
A word from XCL World Academy
“We needed a design firm that could not only think outside of the box, but also create spaces that are inspiring for students and families. Having worked previously with Arete Culture and seen their capabilities first-hand, they were really the only firm we thought capable of delivering on our expectations for this fitout.”
The team from Arete Culture talk us through the design process
Being given such a large, blank, corporate canvas to transform was an exciting prospect. XWA was already a fully functioning school; the brief for this design process was to enhance the current learning environment for students and to make the campus more inviting to parents. In particular, the client wanted families to feel warmly welcomed and truly at home on campus – to really feel part of the close school community.
Another area of focus was to uplift and soften student areas such as the interior space in Early Years and the play areas. The vision was to make these learning spaces simultaneously warm and inspiring to align with the inquiry-based pedagogy of the school.
Design process and challenges
Overall, this fitout was a highly consultative process involving teachers, administrators and even some students! The overarching goal through the design process was to give all key stakeholders – staff, parents and children – beautiful spaces to enjoy while meeting, learning and growing.
This was a new endeavour for us, and the biggest challenge was understanding the demands of a school environment, and how design work is typically completed in schools. The team spent significant time scouring XWA’s corporate guidelines and researching design possibilities. Thankfully, we had the full backing of the client, who always welcomed our ideas with open arms.
It was also tricky to implement the design and renovation work given the limited windows of time available on a working campus. We’re so grateful to the amazing team of contractors who were committed to meeting aggressive project timelines. We couldn’t have pulled this off without them!
6 ways Arete Culture transformed this beautiful school
#1 Reception area
Our aim for this fitout was to create a welcoming space for parents to congregate and chat before and after school. XWA is almost like a big family, so the foyer is a hub of social activity! The pale wooden wall features are reminiscent of growing trees juxtaposed against the luxurious rugs and comfortable sofas. The furnishings add such a sense of warmth and comfort to this ample space. It’s almost like being at home.
“The foyer is a lot brighter and more inviting. It’s wonderful to see students and families enjoying the comfortable space to catch up and hang out. This is really important to us because school is also about building community and relationships.” – Edna Lau, Early Years and Primary Years Principal
#2 Drop-off point and carpark
This is one of the busiest spots in the school where kids are dropped off and potential new families come to visit. Yet, it’s often also the most overlooked area when it comes to styling! First impressions are everything, so we wanted to create a light-saturated receiving area augmented by pops of colour with verdant vertical greenery.
#3 External walkways
Walkways are usually neglected areas in school environments. To enliven the spaces we incorporated plants and wooden geometric accents to elevate the aesthetic.
“The introduction of some greenery really brightens up the space and brings a bit of nature into the school.” – Angeline She, Teacher at XWA
#4 Early Years play area
We were given free rein in this lovely play area to work our magic. First, we pared back and repainted the entire space and re-laminated the cabinetry. Building on this neutral slate, we dressed the oversized windows in plush curtains for a cosy vibe. Re-organising the existing play equipment and introducing distinct play zones formed functional rooms within the large space. This helped open more activity areas while also giving the children a sense of intimacy with their peers.
“It’s so fun!” – Hannah, Early Years student
“What’s great is that there is a bit of everything in our learning pods – from sensory, to dramatic play, to manipulatives, to construction. It’s an exciting environment.” – Razya Abdulkader, teacher
#5 Early Years walkways, stairways and landing
The Early Years campus was a wonderful opportunity to showcase our innovation and creativity. Installing fun, vibrant wall murals instantly created small surprises to engage the children and excite their senses.
We painted the longer corridor walls in a soothing palette of grey, beige and white, adorned with mountains, clouds and hot air balloons. The effect is a gorgeously whimsical backdrop for the children’s work and daily activity schedules. This connected and considered design allows the space, and the children within it, to shine.
#6 Carpark walkway
The carpark links to the main lifts via a walkway, which we spruced up with herringbone panelling and additional vertical greenery. Although merely cosmetic, these tweaks add texture and energise an otherwise dull, transitional zone.
Opting for an airy palette of crisp white walls offset by modern metallic and green accents, we achieved a look that is both in line with the school’s branding guidelines and also easy on the eye. The result is an open and enticing entrance point.
A final word from Caroline
“It was truly an exhilarating and humbling experience to see how excited everyone was with the fitout, from the younger children exclaiming ‘wow, what a cool spot to hang out in!’ to the teachers and administrators who were testing out the new communal areas in the midst of our installation.”
This article first appeared in the April 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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