Plympton Childcare Centre

Gardiner Architects was tasked with completing a unique space for play at Plympton Childcare Centre in Adelaide, Australia.

Gardiner Architects inherited this project at a stage where the building was already partially constructed for a different childcare operator. The tilt slab frame of the building was already installed on site, providing the rectilinear external form. We set out to create dynamic internal spaces, with consideration of access to natural light, the ease of supervision as well as circulation throughout the facility.

Adaptive Reuse
This project was akin to the adaptive re-use of existing building stock which has become a more common way of providing childcare facilities in built up areas where the demand for childcare is high. While we didn’t choose the building form, we found creative ways to work with what was there to minimise wastage and adapt the building form to best suit our client’s needs.

The Internal Layout
The original floor plan had long, narrow Activity Rooms with minimal access to daylight. By reformatting the internal spaces and incorporating wider Activity Rooms, the spaces became lighter and more open while being more useable with larger, more flexible play spaces provided.

The previous design located the bathrooms between each room along the exterior walls to connect with the outdoor play spaces. We chose to relocate the children’s bathrooms, finding that setting them back within the building provided more area for windows and doors and therefore connection to outdoors and access to natural light. Bathroom facilities servicing the outdoor areas were provided separately to align with regulatory requirements. Sometimes it’s about working within the parameters of the regulations but finding the best way they work within the context of the project.

The facilities were organised to allow for connection between spaces for the ease of movement of staff as well as groups of children. When entering the building, views through to the kitchen and dining area as well as the activity rooms allow parents dropping off their children to see through to some of the spaces they’ll be spending the day in.

External Finishes
The street facing façade was bare concrete. We explored ways to make the building more distinct and visually appealing from the street. Timber battens along with a soft green tile were incorporated which also helped activate and define the entry.

The Outdoor Play Space
The outdoor play spaces are located at the rear of the site, separate from the street. The open areas incorporate veggie gardens, a chicken coop and a range of play elements that foster imaginative play.

Visual connection between the two levels of outdoor play is provided through a large light well cut into the upper level. This also allows a wash of light to enter into the building, mitigating the impact of the large overhang of the upper level. It was decided that the outdoor play space dedicated to the younger age groups was more suited to the lower scale, covered outdoor space on the first level.

Design: Gardiner Architects
Photography: Aaron Citti