Embracing Nature in Early Learning Environments

Halswell Preschool

Providing rich opportunities for exploration and discovery, indoors and out, this new preschool in Halswell provides an engaging early learning environment. As Craig South explains, it has been designed to embrace the natural world and the way Kiwi kids learn and play.

Generations of young New Zealanders have grown up going barefoot, getting wet and muddy and exploring trees in the backyard. Fostering that special connection with the natural environment was a real focal point in the design for this new preschool.

At South Architects, we love being able to create positive experiences for people through unique and creative architectural solutions. Working with the client to design a preschool with nature being the centre of attention and the goal of creating a happy and welcoming place for all whānau and staff was an absolute pleasure for our whole team.

On being engaged for the design in late December 2018, we were delighted to find existing trees onsite including a magnolia right in the middle of where the new building would be constructed. In keeping with the brief, we developed our design around the magnolia so it would be a feature tree in a central landscaped courtyard connected with all the other spaces.

Light and spacious inside, the preschool is made up of linked yet discrete areas: a nursery (0-18 months) with its own outdoor area and a cosy sleep room; learning rooms for older children (3-5 years) with a dedicated outdoor play space; a multi-use discovery room; and a open kitchen encouraging interaction with parents. From the front entry, a corridor wraps around the central courtyard linking all these areas with a captivating natural outlook. Underfloor heating adds to the year-round comfort and welcoming atmosphere.

Facilities for the children – such as tables, cubbies, sinks and taps – are all at the right scale and size so they are easy to use. The car park area was also designed with children in mind, with one-way traffic flow and safe pathways into the preschool building.

Three distinct metal clad forms, each with sloping rooflines growing from the lowest ceiling in the nursery to the highest ceiling in the preschool space, make up the 630sqm building. These correspond to the different areas inside. A flat roof plane cuts through to give shelter to outdoor spaces while unifying the whole. These cutaways also expose timber weatherboard to give some warmth.

While mindful of Ministry of Education guidelines at all times, our priority was to achieve an inspiring and uplifting outcome for the preschool’s children, parents and teachers, (who also have their own chill out space/staffroom tucked away from the main hub).

Along with the building design, our team were involved in the interior design, assisting with the selection of durable materials and finishes.

A smart front entry linking through to the courtyard makes parents feel welcome, multiple vistas from each area, easy connection to the natural environment, well-designed spaces for each age group, plenty of avenues for discovering nature, having fun and exploring!

Where: Christchurch

When: Consented August 2019, Opened September 2020

What: Early Childhood Education

Tags: , ,

Published on Tuesday, January 26th, 2021, under The Architecture


Comments are closed.