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    Fit-for-purpose community childcare centre inspired by children's drawings

    Officer Melbourne Cardinia Shire Council VIC

    Located on a Greenfield site in the suburb of Officer in south east Melbourne, the Arena Children’s Centre is one of a number of new community facilities run by the Cardinia Shire Council.

    The area is in the midst of a huge population growth, typified by the arrival of six families per day into the Shire, which in turn puts strain on the area by increasing the demand for accessible, multi-use and well-designed community childcare and related infrastructure.

    For this project, the overall floor size was 550sqm in size and licensed for 66 children in total, while the outdoor spaces were to comprise 1080sqm and 670sqm of carpark area.

    The full facility components include two playrooms, a store room, kitchenette, accessible bathroom, two washrooms, staff planning room, staff room, maternal child and health consulting room, lounge areas and also storage areas.

    Environmental Sustainable Development (ESD) principals that embody objectives of energy efficiency, green house emission reduction and waste minimisation were also a key project driver in the final design.

    According to CohenLeigh Architects, "By developing a visceral façade, inspired by the elementary, familiar forms of houses often drawn by children, we sought to create a unique piece of architecture that evokes imagination, and that children may remember long into the future."

    ‘"We wanted the outdoor spaces to evoke a sense of discovery, and connection with the real world. Natural elements as rudimentary as mud, dirt and insects go a long way to establish in Children’s minds that it is their own backyard open for discovery"

    "Environmental Sustainable Design is a key driver in our pursuit to create a comfortable learning environment – orientation, natural ventilation, deep eaves and shading control all contribute keeping artificial heating / cooling to a minimum and provision of fresh air.

    Combined with roof solar, water collection, low VOC paints, energy efficient lighting and timed water fixtures’ the buildings environmental performance is exemplary while promoting a natural relationship with outdoor spaces," say the architects.

    "While seeking to create an inspiring early learning centre project, it was equally paramount we achieved fulfilment of the community brief and the architectural team achieved this by utilising a number of creative solutions for shared use and flexibility while also integrating pragmatic elements to overcome budget constraints."

    “By developing a visceral façade, inspired by the elementary, familiar forms of houses often drawn by children, we sought to create a unique piece of architecture that evokes imagination, and that children may remember long into the future.”

    “We sought a design solution that balanced big gestures & small gestures. While the façade is distinctive, there is a number of smaller details and joinery pieces that work together in creating a high quality, inspiring community building,” say the architects.

    The architects say the key challenges for this project included:

    • Environmental Sustainable Design (ESD) Performance
    • A design solution that is fit-for-purpose
    • A design and planning that addresses new educational pedagogy for early learning centre spaces enabling children to physically ‘progress’ through their learning environment
    • A civic design solution that fits within a residential context
    • A design solution that creates an environment and atmosphere for creativity, open learning, collaborative learning and discovery
    • Flexibility and adaptability so that the building can be opened for use by other community groups

    From the architect:

    It can be daunting for children to spend time away from home, particularly for the first time.

    To help children feel at ease the design focuses on the concept of ‘home’. A playful, vibrant and memorable series of ‘home’ shapes - a theme that carries right through to the interiors.

    The colourful glazed brick façade was inspired by the elementary, familiar forms of houses often drawn by children – also referencing the housing shapes of the growing suburb.

    The design of the internal spaces centres around a sensory and physical progression through the early learning centre’s educational progression using colour themes, and brickwork interplay as tactile elements helping to guide children.

    Orientation and layouts of the internal playrooms ensures each room has a strong connection with the outdoor areas for flexible indoor/outdoor activities, harnessing natural light, fresh air and relationship with landscape, while a large outdoor play space provides challenging play options that cater to the varying ages of children who’ll be using it.

    Key Info

    Architect: CohenLeigh Architects

    Project size: 550 m2

    Site size: 2990 m2

    Project Budget: $2200000

    Completion date: 2017

    Building levels: 1

    Photography: Tom Blachford

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