The new Kingswood College Early Learning Centre provides an 88-place facility providing kindergarten and long day care services to the local community for children aged 3 to 5 years old, with a major Building Blocks Grant contribution from Victoria’s Department of Education and Training.
The Early Learning Centre interior design has been conceptualised to provide a calming backdrop for the colour and activity that the children will bring to this vibrant facility. Strongly influenced and referenced to nature, through materials and natural colours, the interior creates a seamless integration and connection with the outdoor setting of the College. Reinforced by the visible and physical opportunities for transitioning the interior activities outdoors under the generously extended verandas.
The design looks to blur the edges between internal spaces through visible transparency creating a strong connection and interrelationship of the different groupings, emphasising the sense of community. The movement of the timber/timber-look flooring and carpeted raised platform areas in and through different areas breaks down the more rigid building form into flexible activity zones. With moveable furniture some zones can be busy places, while others provide space for retreat or quiet play.
The interior sculpting of space at floor level is also complimented by the changing volume through the ceiling creating a mix of large-scale gathering spaces and opportunities for more intimate places where the ceiling plane can be lower. The central atelier space creates the largest volume with the opportunity of high light glazing dropping natural light into the heart of the building and allowing for natural ventilation to ‘exhaust’ air across and out of the building using the ‘stack effect’.
The Kingswood learning tree is represented at the heart of the Centre within the atelier volume, designed as a playful feature timber structure, subtly reinforcing the values of the College.
The building has been designed to make young children feel comfortable and inclusive. The scale and height of furniture and joinery is equally responsive to encourage participation and engagement of the children. Elements remain at ‘adult’ scale, something young children cope with every day, while others can be small scale or adapted to achieve a mix. For example, the step/platform in front of the community kitchen allows students to be part of the kitchen experience, but from a place of safety, while the adults use an appropriately designed kitchen environment.
The building verandas create a transition between enclosed internal space and the extension of the indoor environment when the climate allows. The activities of the Centre can flow between indoor and outdoor by repositioning mobile furniture.
The Kingswood Early Learning Centre outdoor spaces are designed to create a ‘nature play’ environment, incorporating unstructured play outdoors in a natural setting enabling children to be active through climbing, bushwalking, gardening, riding bikes, building structures, playing with water, etc. The focus is to establish a philosophy of health, cognitive, social and emotional development; and encourage children to be creative, curious and resilient.