BUILDING COMMUNITY: A new garden of childhood delights for inner city preschoolers in Sydney, Australia.
A new City of Sydney Early Learning Centre for children aged from 6 weeks to 6 years, designed by Fox Johnston, is set to open in the new year, providing an exceptional facility for 74 young residents of the rapidly evolving inner city Green Square Town Centre.
Fox Johnston’s reworking of an old hospital outpatients’ facility retains the integrity of the existing building and reveals its bones, then adds a light filled contemporary wing and a wrap-around external verandah to connect seamlessly to the new outdoor play space.
This new Centre, named Waranara, has been thoughtfully designed to surprise and delight both its small clients and their carers. It offers abundant opportunities to explore, get messy, play and learn, with raised vegetable gardens, fruit tree groves, an outdoor kitchen and digging area, covered verandahs for passive play and craft, individual quiet spaces, and loads of rolling, climbing, falling and sliding for the little ones.
Co-Director of Fox Johnston Emili Fox said¬ “This project creates a new life for an old building, bringing people of all ages together, a safe, connected and creative space for young children for one of the highest density areas in the inner city. It reflects Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s vision of using design to create more connected spaces. This is an early learning centre unlike any other…. conceptually strong, refined work where every single detail has been carefully and thoughtfully designed, to make sure it works architecturally and meets its sustainability and community building objectives.”
Key features of Fox Johnston’s design for the Waranara Early Learning Centre include
+ Adaptive reuse of an existing building, formerly a hospital, with the addition
of a new section created with the point of view of our small users in mind –
everything is child focussed and scaled
+ Designed to connect with nature and encourage exploration and play
+ Sense of transparency and connection to the outside community, yet safe
+ Provides a range of opportunities for nature play and exploration
+ Wrap around verandah to aid circulation and transition to outside
+ Retains structure of the existing buildings to reference their history
+ Range of reuse and sustainability measures, including passive solar and ventilation design through orientation; reuse of demolished brickwork in recycled paving; hydronic floor heating; heat-recovery air-conditioning system; 8kW solar array system; rainwater tank collection tanks and bicycle storage have been incorporated.
Existing internal spaces are adapted to create light-filled, open play rooms by modifying the existing roof cowls to bring natural light and ventilation into the spaces. Exposed trusses, taken from the design of the original Queens Post trusses, highlight the form of the existing building.
The Waranara Early Learning Centre is also designed to showcase the importance of potential in adaptive reuse for future sustainable developments, exhibiting the positive effects of dynamic, well-thought architecture on the children and carers of Sydney’s growing communities.
Generous covered verandahs have been provided for passive play and craft. These outdoor rooms are then further extended by a natural verandah of large shade trees. This rhythm allows for the development of individual spaces useful for isolated activities.
Nature play is located along the western boundary, as a strip that incorporates a sensory path, playful raised veggie gardens, fruit tree groves and timber balance challenges. An outdoor kitchen and digging patch have also been provided in this area to combine these more natural elements into the one zone. The nature play extends into the water play and sand play zone. A generous open play space has been provided for all age groups.
The 0-2 age-group sits apart from the older ages by a playful seat wall that forms a separation, whilst promoting interaction with the adjacent areas. Rolling rubber soft fall mounds with small slides and climbing ladders have been provided also, with an open area of astro turf for controlled free activity.
The new Centre enhances connectivity between the functions of the whole South Sydney Hospital Site community space, and encourages diversity in commuter travel; from walking & cycling to shared & efficient public transportation.
Fox Johnston is a design and ideas-driven practice based in Sydney, Australia. The practice offers an experiential and holistic approach to design by integrating landscape and architecture to create compelling and thought-provoking places.
We combine an intelligent, pragmatic response to each client’s brief with a thorough understanding of the opportunities created by site and context.
We work across a range of projects, from large private houses to adaptive re-use of heritage buildings to major multi-residential projects. Our work is driven by a passion for light, space, natural materials and finely crafted living spaces, coupled with an acute awareness of the sustainability challenges facing the built environment today.