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A centre in Dunedin that respectfully refurbishes five existing villas

The newly refurbished OUCA (Otago University Childcare Association) Childcare or “Te Pā” in Dunedin has been granted a win at the recent 2015 Southern Architecture Awards for it's "meticulous attention to the reuse of prominent building elements" and for being a "dynamic, multicultural and enjoyable building" (NZIA, 2015).

Designed by the team at Parker Warburton Architects, the now 140 child capacity centre utilises elements (including the street facade) of existing original 19th century villas.

Meanwhile the architects have extended the structure at the back, a design that both echoes the existing villa aesthetic whilst providing a more "contemporary" construction of clean lines, stained timber slats and pops of colour.

The centre also receiving a Resene Colour Award for providing a "restrained, pleasant colour palette reinforcing the rhythm of the street" and with the "mix of warm natural timber and splashes of reds and yellows adding a fun, dynamic aesthetic to modern forms."

Teepees, forts, playrooms, art spaces, gardens and teacher offices make up the playful microcosm of this centre that both promotes playful exploration and provides a warm "homely" and comfortable feel.

Says the centre director Kay Lloyd-Jones: “The children are loving the water features, opportunities to ‘climb hills’, the warmth of the floors from underfloor heating and the sense of space both inside and outside. Parents have been amazed by all of this, and also the aesthetic, the sense of enclosure between the buildings which excludes traffic noise and the feeling of community coming from the arrangement of the buildings.”

The design sensitively carries through traditional elements such as the natural stained timber trims - (skirtings, dado and architraves) through to the new structure providing a seamless transition.

A "finger" or splayed spatial arrangement in plan results in maximum connection from inside to the natural outdoors - allowing natural sunlight and ventilation to be used throughout.

Inspired by a journey from the mountains to the sea, a meandering covered walkway connects the existing villas to the row of five new buildings which enclose the site along the Water of Leith. Amidst this enclosed space is a variety of outdoor play elements - man-made and natural to encourage free and active play.

In fact a unique part of the OUCA pedagogy is the "bush curriculum" whereby teachers take groups of the older children into the bush to "explore" (ERO) - a great concept for children to further get access to the natural outdoors and use their creative imagination.

Via Architecture Now.


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