'Alkira' is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘bright and sunny’. For our clients, staff, parents and, most importantly the children, the completed centre lives up to its name (our client has told us many of the children now refer to the centre as “our happy place in the sun”).
Our client had a specific desire to offer the coastal community something unique; a childcare centre unlike residents on the Central Coast had ever seen before. Not only did our client have a vision to create the best early learning centre on the Central Coast however; their mission was to deliver the best on a national scale.
Our client required the following deliverables for their early learning centre:
- Superior functionality and safety.
- A warm, nurturing and inviting space in which children feel welcome and secure and parents and staff feel a sense of community.
- Indoor and outdoor learning spaces that would inspire creative thinking, curiosity and learning through play and nature.
- Quality staff amenities suitable for the high calibre of staff our client intended to employ.
- A seamless integration between the centre’s interior with the gardens, farmyard, landscaping and the natural environment.
- Environmentally sustainable design and construction.
We commenced the project with a detailed needs analysis and site evaluation. The needs analysis included discussions with our client, staff, and parents of pre-school aged children (including babies and toddlers) to gain a deeper understanding of their needs.
The site evaluation highlighted the fact that we were blessed with a natural landscape that enjoyed a natural buffer along the western boundary, a scenic outlook and abundant natural light. The site included an original dwelling, which upon closer inspection, was found to incorporate quality hardwood timber floorboards and beams, which we decided to salvage and incorporate into the new building.
Key design elements:
- We strategically positioned the building on the site to ensure it created a striking impact from its main road frontage while making the most of the mountainous scenery to the west and the existing Needle Pine tree buffer along the site’s western boundary.
- We created an internal environment in which –
- Abundant natural light flows throughout the centre’s interior.
- All rooms open onto the natural amphitheatre and natural park-like surrounds that have been created in the centre’s many play areas.
- Children could be readily supervised from any point in the building.
- extensive use of floor to ceiling glass invites the outdoors in, creating a feeling of being surrounded by nature.
- The rooms have been designed in such a way that children may be segregated into different age groups for specific age related learning and nurturing or brought together in one open space for group learning.
- Careful consideration was given to the selection of the building materials to achieve a balance between aesthetics, functionality, durability and environmental sustainability. Our objective was to create a warm, welcoming and natural look and feel that blurs the lines between the building and the natural environment.
- Materials specified and selected included Shadowclad, Terracade, recycled timber salvaged from the original homestead as decorative feature elements, and eco-friendly Modwood decking, to name just a few.
- A distinctive element incorporated in the external design of the building was the decorative metal screens used on the centre’s façade. The screens, which have become a real talking point in the community, serve as both support structures and a decorative feature inspired by the Australian bush.
- The intricate shadows cast by the metal screens bring an element of playfulness to the centre, stimulating the children’s curiosity and encouraging them to explore and play within nature.