Leading architecture firm Bates Smart chose curved bricks from Robertson's Building Products Pty Ltd to provide a tactile experience to children at the new Woodstock Early Learning Centre in Sydney Olympic Park. The glazed bricks with custom curves reinforce the learning centre’s playful nature.

Bates Smart’s design for developer Ecove Group was based on creating a relatable, fun, playful and tactile building for young children attending the centre. Nestled adjacent to the recently completed 36-storey Opal Tower apartments, also designed by the Bates Smart team, the series of seven pavilions making up the learning centre are sure to delight the senses of every child who enters its doors.

Bates Smart was able to meet their design objectives by combining a thoughtful, creative design with a highly colourful and tactile material palette, driven by bricks.

Though the building is integrated into the new Opal Tower development, the Woodstock ELC stands alone as seven distinct pentagonal pavilions, replicating the five sides of the site’s boundaries. Four of the pavilions are playrooms, arranged around a common outdoor play area, and the remaining three house administration and support spaces. Curved corners and pitched rooves, sloping in different directions, complete the pavilions’ unique design.

Jonathan Claridge, Associate, Bates Smart explains, “The pitched roof was designed to echo a typical residential building… and we used curved corners to make the building appear more welcoming and softer, breaking down the scale and making it feel a little more residential or domestic in scale so it wouldn’t be so daunting for the children attending the childcare – so it would seem like a more fun and playful building.”

Following DA approval and prior to construction, Bates Smart worked closely with Robertson’s Building Products “to determine the specification of those curved bricks, what the radius of those corners could be and the various custom bricks types that were required to achieve those curves,” Jonathan remarks.

Bricks were important to the Centre’s design for their domestic quality and for the scale, size and texture that they added to a design.

Jonathan explains that they liked the idea of bricks being a textural experience for the children, so they’d be more willing to touch and feel the building. Exploring the idea further, they decided to use glazed bricks to elevate this domestic material into something more special. The glaze made the building more colourful, really reinforcing its playful nature.

After consulting with Peter Robertson, the Bates Smart team selected five different Robertson’s Building Products glazed bricks for the ELC comprising of four custom greens and a light grey. The glazed bricks complemented Opal Tower’s green façade, which took its colours and hues from the surrounding Bicentennial Park.

“The way that the light reflects off the bricks at different times of the day is one of those unexpected qualities, and the appearance changes throughout the day; the way the light hits the face of the building and the curves is particularly pleasing,” Jonathan comments.

The glazed bricks are also a little different with a slight texture instead of just a flat coat of glazing. The slightly uneven texture lends a unique quality to each brick, adding to the reflective nature of the brick and producing a more interesting appearance.

When Woodstock ELC welcomes 80 young children through its doors, there is no doubt they will react just as the Bates Smart team expects them to – with absolute delight and excitement at having a fun and interactive environment in which to learn and play.

Images: Courtesy of Ecove