CHILDRENS CENTRE IN A PYRAMID!

With young families a big focus for the main employer of the town in a remote mining area, the project was to expand the existing long daycare and preschool into a 160 place Children’s Centre and Long Daycare facility spread across two buildings and with completely redeveloped ‘nature-play’ focused outdoor learning spaces. The existing building was tired and dark with a warren of corridors, and ambiguous relationship with the outdoor spaces. The adjacent building used to be the Library for the Area School. A centre piece for the development of the town in the late 1980s, the design is pyramidal with a raking ceiling soaring 8m to its zenith. To bring the scale down suitable for little preschoolers was critical. This size also created problems for acoustics; how to create good functional indoor learning areas for up to 120 children a volume similar to a small cathedral. Sonus Acoustics Engineering has worked closely with us to develop an innovative solution using suspended panels. The dark ceiling hides mechanical services behind the ochre coloured acoustic cloud. Tiny skylight tubes bring columns on light into the children’s activity area where they can track the movement of the sun on the floor through the day and through the seasons. The new full height windows and sliding doors open the previously blank wall to an inviting visa featuring a huge hibiscus tree. This tree with yellow flowers is a holder of memories for generations of Roxby Downs children. The colours were work-shopped thoroughly with the Director and staff, focusing on natural textures and hues, alluding to the semi-arid landscape outside, without mimicry. Commissions have resulted in stunning art work produced by local painters to compliment the atmosphere and character of the spaces
The climate is extreme. Summer lasts for 6-8 months and the winters can provide very cold mornings. The traditional outdoor play space needed to morph into more creative and challenging opportunities for risk-taking and self-directed inquiry-based activities. There was also a challenge to create more usable sheltered outdoor space without losing area. The precious Hibiscus tree which has nurtured at least two generations of families was a centre-piece of the outdoor space and protection of this icon was essential. The Children’s Centre brief included community meeting spaces and Allied Health support services.
The outcome is a testament to collaborative design and strong leadership from the Centre Director and co-workers. There was a clear directive for natural colours and finishes, for excellent natural day-lighting and vastly improved seamless indoor-outdoor connection, for more usable transitional verandah space between inside and out. With so many children and different age groups to be hosted as well as the long hours and multiple meal times, there was a requirement for lots of different indoor learning and quite spaces, small intimate quiet spaces, for individuals and small groups, resting places, larger more open and larger group spaces, and dining areas. The kitchens; one in each building, had to be designed with their clientele and different ages in clear focus.
We are so grateful for the patience, collaborative working relationship and dedication of the staff and particularly Director Brenda Murray. We are very proud of this work and the creative energy contributed by our team.

ARCHITECT
David Kilpatrick, Richard Woods, Dennis Kipridis
BUILDER
McMahon Services Australia, Jordan Singh and Marcus Stephens
PROJECT MANAGEMENT
DPTI, Justin Tulloch
CLIENT
The Department for Education, BHP, Roxby Downs Childrens Centre and the Roxby Downs Area School
LANDSCAPE
Wax Design, Amanda Balmer, Corey Brown
STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING
Meinhardt Consulting Engineers, Hamish Bills
SERVICE ENGINEERING
Meinhardt Consulting Engineers; Bob Ellis, Chinh Do, Boa Hoang,
ACOUSTICS ENGINEERING
Sonus Pty Ltd. Chris Turnbull
QUANTITY SURVEYOR
Rider Levett Bucknall