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Living and Learning New Family Centre, Auckland New Zealand

Before photo

After photo

This commission for a 100-child care centre came from a non-profit childcare foundation whose aim is to bring hope and healing through education and empowerment to lower income communities throughout New Zealand (NZ).
As funds were scarce, the foundation acquired an existing building in a low income area of South Auckland and asked us to prepare a design that would renovate and extend the existing, whilst unifying the whole into a purpose designed modern childcare centre.
At the heart of our design is the scale of the child. The existing footprint wrapped around a beautiful child-scaled courtyard so our first move was to convert the building to a series of classrooms accessing directly onto this sunny outdoor space. To connect indoor and outdoor, we fully glazed all the rooms around with full height sliding glazed doors, allowing the children unimpeded access to outdoors. On the opposite side, we connected all these rooms via a new circulation space into which we scattered small multi-coloured windows offering the children peeps into the rooms. Opposite is a display board and lighting set at children’s height to showcase all of their new work.

At the front of the building, a number of community rooms are placed directly off reception. These rooms allow the centre to offer a number of essential community services in this neglected area: a small doctors clinic, counselling, plunkett, budgeting and WINZ. This is an essential feature of this building and has allowed it to quickly become a real ‘community’ centre, rather than just a childcare.
Equally important to the design is the sense that the building should capture something of the ‘spirit of its place’ as part of the children’s education. The material and articulation of the building is reminiscent of the barns and early houses of the many market gardens that Mangere was famous for. Externally, the new playground design reflects the early Maori settlements and the indigenous flora and fauna of the locality: only NZ native plants from the area have been used in the planting to teach the children about their natural and built heritage.
The building by its very nature has a light touch on the earth. By keeping the existing form we were able to save tons of waste and pollution, whilst providing an exceptional new learning environment. The new glazing and roof lights mean that the building is flooded with natural light and ventilation, meaning artificial lighting and cooling is not required. Lighting is only necessary after dark. The glazing also serves to heat the building passively, whilst further assistance is provided by efficient heat pumps zoned to individual rooms. All circulation spaces are unheated and located to act as buffer spaces to limit heat loss from those that are heated, with insulation at twice the building code provided throughout the building to further minimise heat loss.
The building also minimises the amount of resources it requires on a daily basis: a 20kl water tank stores all the water drained from the roof and uses it to flush all the toilets, irrigate the planting and for water play. Internally all water using appliances use approx. 40% less than conventional appliances, whilst hot water is supplied solely by a combination solar and heat pump source. All electrical appliances and lighting are all selected from min.4 star ranges.
Overall, the clients’ desire to bring hope to this neglected community is vividly embodied in this revitalised building. Full of sunlight and dressed in new clothes, the building clearly demonstrates that with passion and vision, an existing ‘problem’, can be turned into an opportunity for all.


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