A Vibrant Learning Centre You Can Call Home
Words by Anthony Richardson
Spending time away from home for the first time can be difficult for children, having a space that feels like home helps them to cope. Cohen Leigh Architects used a series of playful and vibrant 'home' shapes to evoke a sense of security in Arena Children's Centre.
A growing demand for modern early learning spaces in the growing community of Officer in Melbourne's south east led to the inception of this vibrant centre. Cohen Leigh Architects recognised how daunting it can be for children to be away from home for the first time, and looked to make the centre feel like home through the use of shapes that reflect the icon of 'home'. They were tasked with providing a centre for 66 children, split into two playrooms, including outdoor spaces, as well as a store room, kitchenette, accessible bathroom, two washrooms, staff planning room, staff room, Maternal Child & Health consulting room and lounge areas. On top of that, ESD principles such as energy efficiency and reduction of green house emissions were key drivers in the project.
The concept of 'home' was integral to the project, and it seen most evidently in the form. Ask a child to draw a picture of a house and it will feature a gable roof, and that's exactly how Arena Children's Centre looks. The form is broken down into a series of 'homes', each with a vibrant, colourful glazed brick facade.
Internally, the spaces centre around a sensory and physical progression, using colour themes as tactile elements as a means to guide children. The centre is laid out in such a way to ensure each playroom has a strong connection to the outdoor areas, providing flexible spaces for activities depending on the weather, as well as providing natural light and fresh air.
The outdoor play space provides a range of play options, allowing all age groups to participate but it also caters to an individual child's development growth. More importantly, the architects wanted the outdoor space to evoke this sense of discovery and connection to the natural world. Natural elements, something as simple as mud and dirt, also helped children feel as though that they're in their own backyard.
Cohen Leigh Architects wanted to create a space that fostered a positive interaction and spontaneity with both the natural and constructed environment of the centre, as well as providing opportunities for exploration and discovery. What's came as a result is an inspiring early learning centre, that not only fulfils the written brief of floor area requirements, but provides a place that the children can call home.