Positive effects of wood in Vorarlberg’s (Austria) timber kindergartens

Jakub Hanták, Danica Končeková

Cite this article
Hanták, J., Končeková, D. (2023) ‘Positive effects of wood in Vorarlberg’s (Austria) timber kindergartens’, Architecture Papers of the Faculty of Architecture and Design STU, 28(3), pp. 36-50. https://www.doi.org/10.2478/alfa-2023-0018



The topic of implementing sustainable materials and integrating them into newly constructed, valuable, and cultural architecture is currently often mentioned in connection with the new initiative of the New European Bauhaus. The aim of this article is to highlight the impact of wood as a material used in the interiors of kindergartens on the development of children and inclusivity in education. The use of wooden furniture and wooden structural elements in kindergarten interiors opens up a new area of research and interest in the context of supporting diversity and accessibility for every child, regardless of their abilities or limitations. The article analyses the timber architecture of kindergartens in the Vorarlberg region, which, thanks to the use of natural, local, and especially sustainable material such as solid wood, serves as an excellent reference example for creating new school projects. The partial research focused on existing wooden kindergartens in Austria, as one of the Alpine countries where wooden kindergartens are relatively widespread. The study interprets the results of practical research conducted in eight selected kindergartens (Kindergarten Am Schlatt – Lustenau, Kindergarten Am Engelbach – Lustenau, Kindergarten Hatlerstraße – Dornbirn, Kindergarten Wallenmahd – Dornbirn, Kindergarten Muntlix – Muntlix, Kindergarten Altenstadt – Feldkirch, Kindergarten Susi Weigel – Bludenz, Kindergarten Mellau – Mellau) in the Vorarlberg region. The visual-haptic-olfactory contact with solid wood elements in kindergarten environments undoubtedly affects the emotional and physiological well-being of children. Wood material in kindergarten interiors can improve the educational processes, contribute to inclusive education for children, influence their cognitive abilities, reduce their stress, and ultimately positively influence their overall quality of life. This article aims to emphasize the effect of solid wood material (structural elements, furniture, toys and play elements) on the development of children and inclusivity in education. The presence of solid wood can have an aesthetic and psychological effect in kindergarten interiors and exteriors, providing children with direct contact with nature, which has become increasingly less frequent due to the modern urban lifestyle. The wood material, as characterized in this research, is presented as a visual, solid, interior substance. Its execution is authentic, with little or no surface treatment that could degrade its visual-haptic-olfactory qualities. The authors raise questions as to how such architectural and design thinking can help in providing inclusive education for children and whether it can positively influence children’s cognitive abilities, ultimately improving their overall quality of life. The selected analyses and comparisons focused on whether the presence of wood material can positively influence the well-being of children in the physical environment of kindergartens. The article aims to demonstrate that interiors with visible wood can help to improve teaching processes, promote social interaction, and foster playful learning in children. The results of this study can serve as a strong argument for the New European Bauhaus initiative supporting the implementation of renewable materials such as wood in accordance with the principles of biophilic, restorative environmental and salutogenic design in practice. The presented paper is a partial result of doctoral research focused on studying the positive influence of wood on children’s psyche and educational processes in general. One of the research goals is to identify and summarize the opinions of teachers and educators, present information about the educational potential of these institutions, assess their atmosphere as perceived by the recipients, and evaluate to what extent wood as a material has the potential to positively influence the educational process. The obtained results have the ambition to inspire the creation of new recommendations, guidelines, and solutions for the design of kindergarten architecture that would create an inclusive environment for children offering space where could expand their knowledge, gain experiences, thus applying design thinking in practice.

Keywords: kindergarten, Austria, well-being, new European Bauhaus, wood impact, Vorarlberg