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A CENTRE THAT TRANSFORMS EXISTING WAREHOUSES INTO A NEW BENCHMARK EARLY LEARNING FACILITY FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS ALIKE

 
Lady Gowrie is a not-for-profit community-based organisation providing over 30 ECE (Early Childhood Education) centres across Tasmania, Australia. Their latest exemplary centre showcases their integrated and "through the looking glass" model, offering facilities for not only children's' learning and care, but family support services and staff training, becoming an early learning community "hub".





The new 2320sqm state-of-the-art facility is the result of intensive collaboration and workshops between the architects Cumulus Studio and the Lady Gowrie Tasmania team, with the architects even helping to procure the site. The chosen brownfield site cleverly adapts existing industrial warehouse buildings that used to house a mechanics workshop. The most transformative aspect is the large timber-clad structure that is playfully arranged like "jenga" or play cubes over the existing structure, forming a new entry and staff rooms.






Different levels connect effortlessly from the entry reception leading to the central sheltered courtyard with its transparent roof. Form here you can see through to the early education rooms/play areas (which are divided into 0-3 years, 3+ years, and a multi-use/aged room).










The integrated model of childcare, education and community is reflected in the architectures flexible indoor and outdoor spaces, and in the blurring of boundaries - to create a changing and diverse play terrain. Various functions and breakout spaces are collected around the vertical circulation, encouraging informal encounters and opportunities for learning (for both children, caregivers and parents).

Read down to hear from the architects Cumulus Studio....

CONCEPT DIAGRAMS






Q & A with Cumulus Studio


What do you see as the most challenging part of designing for early learning centres? 

For us, the biggest challenge in undertaking this project was incorporating the required amount of external play space on a restricted, urban site. Working with a former car garage we were forced to introduce a number of creative solutions to equip the building with a series of safe, interactive outdoor play spaces.

Balancing the competing needs of the educator and child was also challenging at certain stages of the design. To promote this balance we focused on promoting interaction and collaboration between the educator and the child, rather than supervision from a distance.
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Any tips or advice or learnings that you can pass onto future educators or architects who will be endeavouring to undertake this journey in the future? 

Now two years on from the project’s completion we have a clear understanding of what worked well and what we might change in the future.

In terms of the design concept, I would say it’s important to have fun, be playful and not be afraid of colour. The sensory engagement of the child was a paramount consideration in our design and I think this played a major role in the project’s success.

Child safety and specific educator supervision requirements should also never be underestimated by any designer working with early learning facilities.
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Can we expect any more centres in the Cumulus Studio pipeline?

We’re really interested in expanding our portfolio within the education sector. Right now, we are assessing inner city Hobart sites for another project with Lady GowrieTasmania and hope to have more details to reveal soon.
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DRAWINGS

SITE PLAN




LOWER LEVEL GREEN SPACE 

LOWER LEVEL GROUP ROOMS




MID LEVEL GREEN SPACES




MID LEVEL GROUP ROOMS




MID LEVEL STAFF OFFICES





MID LEVEL STAFF TRAINING




UPPER LEVEL STAFF TRAINING





LONG SECTION AND CROSS-SECTION


A small yet boldly inviting centre in Japan that uses an existing building


Japanese (and early childhood specialist) architects HIBINOSEKKEI and Youji no Shiro are at it again with the MK-S Nursery - a small (160sqm) centre that inhabits an existing residence and disused 2-storey shop.

Restoring the existing fabric of the building with new ply internal linings and a perforated "starry" metal screen with house and square shaped windows the result is a tidy and yet fun new building for the community's young children.




The low-grade (so cheap) plywood lining walls are thickly framed - allowing deep silled windows to sit in/on and for dividing walls to contain functional storage.




Note the deep sills in which kids can climb up onto and look out at the street. The "hidden" door clad in the same ply and made flush is a clever detail also.

The palette is simple - with ply lining, some painted with shades of blue, engineered timber flooring and plasterboard ceilings - yet rich and warm.


It is a fine example of how to convert an existing dwelling with seemingly little effort into a rich and inviting space for young children.

Via TrendHunter.

A school in Brazil that embodies the idea of the architecture as playing a vital role in learning


The Wish School in Brazil serving children aged 2 to 4 years of age is passionate about children's' learning - and has, since January been awarded by the Edumission Challenge as one of the 10 most innovative educational institutions in the world.

Spaces of welcome and retreat or reflection are included.

"Education is a process of transformation, of inner growth, in which we discover the world around us and the world discovers us as well. Education is an exchange, a subjective process lived in the moment in which each one perceives himself learning something new"   (Eduardo Shimahara)

Their belief is that education must be approached holistically - that is encompassing all elements of the individual child - emotional, social, cultural, creative, physical and spiritual. 

It was thus important for the environment (or architecture) to reflect or or enable the educators and students to "act out" and inhabit this vision to its full potential.

Rotational furniture "pods" inhabit many functions - from dividing space to containing storage and elements of play (with curtains for puppet shows).

The architects collaborated with both students and teachers to define the brief and ensure the architecture reflects their powerful pedagogy.

Designed by Grupo Garoa Architects the resulting architecture is a unique example of an intensive collaboration between the educator and their pedagogy (or educational vision), the children (or students) themselves and the designers.


Careful consideration was paid to the building's transitional spaces (i.e. inside to outside) - creating memorable experiences when traveling from one space to another.

A variety of textural surfaces and materials are used indoors and out to enrich the childrens' learning.

The architects worked within an existing shed-like and industrial building "container" - in which to "house" the pedagogical elements of "rooms" or room-dividing elements. Rather than using traditional walls, ceiling and floors, zones were created through the use of informal furnishing "pods" which are cleverly fixed to the building's structural beams and are allowed to move or rotate as the spatial needs of the spaces are determined.


Natural lighting is used to its fullest potential through the use of internal courtyards and atriums with skylights over.


A variety of spaces cater for all types of learning - from group collective work to more individual or quiet.

Physical and social interaction is encouraged with the diverse spatial arrangements, the many connecting stairs and atriums and blurred internal to external boundaries (with bountiful natural gardens, natural light wells, and courtyards).


Via ArchDaily.

A new centre in Brooklyn is delicately designed to feel like an extension of the home



Pale maple timber, blank white walls (to take the children's' art) and spots of colour all work together at this preschool situated on the second floor of a new tower to create a cohesive and calming space which does in fact feel like an extension of one's home.



Three classrooms catering 16 children each are arranged linearly with sliding pocket doors connecting each. At the end of this arrangement is a multi-purpose shared space housing a flexible "food-truck like" kitchen which hosts a daily "cafe-time".



Semi-open bathrooms are positioned between the classrooms with surfaces covered in porcelain-tiled grey-muted blues and greens.

Inter-connected sinks, one of which cantilevers out to the classroom makes for a nifty water-feature and easy clean-up after messy eating or games.



The architects, Alexandra Barker (of BFDO Architects) and Priya Patel (of 4|MATIV) won over the existing Maple School (who were looking to expand their premises) and developers of the tower Hudson with their proposal that reflected the centres' ethos of being an "extension of the home".

"Where co-operation and involvement are emphasised, where each child is nurtured in a warm and caring atmosphere and where curiosity and play are central to learning."




It is truly comforting to see steps being made away from the institutional and towards architecture that nurture their young inhabitants.

Via Dezeen, Architects Newspaper and Metropolis.

Castle & Cubby

 
It was the kindergarten pioneer Friedrich Froebel who noted (in 1893) “play [as] the highest phase of child development”. Going on to elaborate that “play at this time is not trivial, it is highly serious and of deep significance… The plays of childhood are the germinal leaves of all later life.”

It is a notion that is often ignored (or forgotten) as lives get busier and “free-time” is spent sitting in front of some “techy” device. It is promising therefore that there are those who are beginning to rise against allowing this new “norm” - with movements popping up such as forest or “outdoor” schools, adventure parks and playgrounds, and in the creation of back-yard “cubbies” such as these picturesque examples by Melbourne-based ‘Castle and Cubby’.





Kellie and Jonathan Stores began their ‘Castle & Cubby’ business when pregnant with their second child and were inspired to create sustainable (so no bright plastics!) products for their little people with BIG imaginations.


Above, a farmers market inspired cubby.


Made from (mostly) recycled apple crates, their products aim to inspire kids’ imaginations by providing a space for them to mimic the world they live in. Having two young ones means they are constantly inspired as they watch the real-life games enacted by their kids - they are always creating, designing and testing new ideas in the backyard.












As Kellie says: “We are passionate about creating spaces not just for children but for families to connect and be reminded of what good old fashioned outdoor fun is.” Activities that inspire sharing, role-playing, interacting, creating stories and dreams. The cubbies, whilst each being uniquely hand-crafted have taken the form of farmer’s market producers to grocery shopkeepers and baristas, beach ice-cream carts and more.


 

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