Mount Barker Childcare Centre

Gardiner Architects was tasked with completing the Mount Barker Childcare Centre with an indoor and outdoor appeal in Mount Barker, Australia.

The centre is located in Mount Barker, in the Adelaide Hills and is situated on a large site surrounded by established gums. The site came with some interesting parameters including a busy main road to the east, a reasonable slope across the property as well as a heritage building to be retained and extended to allow for its adaptive reuse.

Through the initial phases of the project, we quickly identified that we wanted to allow the heritage house to be emphasised as the primary architectural expression, with the new addition subtly tucked behind. The range of facilities required, meant there was quite a large building mass to strategically locate. Fortunately the size of the site allowed for the orientation of the building to be opened to both the north and south, allowing views into the adjacent outdoor play spaces and larger trees beyond.

We visited the centre on a sunny day last winter. It had been in operation for some time by then and it was great to see the spaces full of life and activity. The large outdoor play space was all action with children engaging with the different play elements, happy to be outside after the prior week of rain. The large deciduous trees are a dramatic feature hanging above the play space with the whole area feeling separate and protected from the busy road and carpark.

The internal layout prioritises connectivity between spaces allowing for effective supervision and ease of movement between facilities for the staff and children. The entry and reception is located within the same space as the dining area and open kitchen, an important central space that all the children visit to eat and engage in food education. The dining area was also strategically placed to act at the same time as a widened corridor, the connection point between the heritage building and the new addition. It has become the informal meeting point where children and staff intermingle on their journeys throughout the day. The visibility from the entry and reception also allows parents popping in to be connected and exposed to the children’s activities.

The corridors were designed to allow a wash of light to filter into the spaces. Rather than solely being circulation space, the larger corridors become congregation areas where parents catch up and children meet before entering their rooms. It feels like its own distinct area which provides variation in the spaces the children inhabit through the day. Highlight windows above and views into a courtyard at the end of the corridor, transforms the circulation space into a visually interesting space that is easily activated and utilised with children’s artwork lining the walls.

Design: Gardiner Architects
Photography: Aaron Citti