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Australian Minister opens NZ architect designed child centre

Australian Minister opens New Zealand architect designed childcare centre
- NZ architects think like three-year-olds over the ditch



Australian Assistant Minister for Education Hon. Sussan Ley MP opened a New Zealand architect designed childcare centre in Brisbane this week. Heralded as one of the best examples of childcare design in the country by the Minister, the colourful and progressive building for the Mother Duck chain is the work of Context Architects - a New Zealand architectural practice based in Auckland and Christchurch and also operating in Australia and the US.

“The centre is outstanding,” said the Minister Sussan Ley at the opening on Monday. “I’ve visited several hundred centres since becoming first the opposition spokesperson and now the Minister for Childcare in Tony Abbott’s government. This is state-of-the-art. You walk in and you get the feeling that this is going to be a very successful and special place. You’ve designed an incredible building. What stood out to me was the homeliness of it. Everything isn’t little; there are big things too – big chairs, big floorboards - things children see in their own homes. And amount of outdoor space for children to run around is unique in city childcare,” said the Minister.

The new centre in Wynnum, a bayside suburb in Brisbane, opened for business three weeks ago and is already at 70 percent occupancy. On its first public open day, 300 people visited the centre with queues out the door as locals came to see the bold building they had watched taking form over the previous year. Context Architects was chosen by the Mother Duck group for its design concept that put children first, but also enabled the organisation to realise its commercial objectives. “Totally child-centric, our beautiful new flagship centre houses up to 130 children. Its home-like atmosphere gives a sense of belonging to our children and their families,” explained Mother Duck chairman Denis Hinton.

Mother Duck is the second largest provider of childcare and preschool in Queensland with 14 centres across Brisbane. “Context took our values and culture and translated them into an ‘Aussie back yard’ design concept. An extension of the home where the learning spaces extend out from the lounge onto the covered deck and into the backyard, providing the ability for caring surveillance from anywhere on site,” said Denis Hinton.

Located on the south-east corner of Tingal Road and Prospect Street in Wynnum North, on a site previously occupied by a 1980’s Queensland State Preschool, the centre is light and transparent within - so you can see what is happening in every classroom - but it is shielded from the street. “We wrapped the building around the perimeter of the site maximising space, visual protection and security, while inside along ‘Rainbow Street’, each learning space is constructed from enduring and familiar materials including weather boards, board and batten and sash windows,’” explained architect and Context MD Stephen Voyle. “We had a lot of fun designing from a child’s perspective and thinking like three year olds. Our design process is often playful, but never more so than on this project.” added Stephen.

The new centre features an indoor floor-to-ceiling treehouse and vibrant double height entrance atrium with a fishtank reception leading to Rainbow Street - a key component of the design. Rainbow Street is a flexible covered safe play space and a permeable boundary between outside and in. It features colourful individually themed ‘homes’ that adapt to children’s needs throughout the day including calm and restful spaces. The street comes complete with letterboxes and streetlamps and is full of interactive child-height features such as louvers that the children can operate themselves. It opens onto a magical, explorative playground with interesting and daring spaces for children to explore and play including a water park and mini-amphitheatre.

“Childcare is a highly competitive industry. The difference with other businesses is that children are our customers. This sets the standards and the stakes higher. Context’s design means the high quality of care and education at Mother Duck is reflected in this amazing building,” summed up Denis Hinton.

Approximately 70 people attended yesterday’s opening including Ross Vasta MP Federal member for Bonner, and the families of the children who attend the centre.

-ends-

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