Project Description

Little Doves Early Learning Centre, Albany

Nestling into the tree lined fringes of Kristin school’s campus in Albany, Little Doves offers a secluded natural setting for the care and nurture of 75 one to four year olds.

Whilst Kristin’s school role for secondary education is well established and currently expanding, there was a lot of pressure on their pre and primary school offerings from competing private and public providers in the locality. It was felt that this was partly attributable to their facilities for these offerings and so they approached us to create a new early learning centre that would set them apart from the competition and embody the Kristin philosophies of excellence and creativity.

With the intensification of the local area over the 45 years the school has been in operation, we felt Kristin’s uniqueness had to be its park-like setting. We wanted to use this in our concept and really celebrate it, hence the concept of the ‘secret garden’ for the new centre.

Two intersecting walls following the compass points create a cross-like plan, symbolising Kristin’s Christian values whilst also breaking the programme into public, semi public and private areas. These manifest as smaller ‘courtyard’ spaces that create the feeling of more intimate walled gardens.

The buildings key functions are accommodated within these courtyards – the main entrance and car park, a secluded staff administration block, the early childhood classrooms and playground, and a pedestrian entrance garden.

Views from outside are carefully controlled to create interest in discovering what’s behind, with the walls leading the viewer to the entrance points, from where the architecture creates a further ‘journey’ both into the centre and in time – a series of tree outlines lines the hallway, each one representing a moment in the sites history from when it was a kauri forest, through market garden and orchard right through to present day. This journey culminates in the penultimate act – the classroom.

These are designed to provide state of the art comfortable spaces for children to learn and play bathed in daylight and very well naturally ventilated with extensive views over the playground garden. The automated louvered canopies outside can be opened to allow more natural light to enter the building in winter or closed to provide shade during summer months or cover from the rain, creating a useful all-weather space for outdoor activities.

Staff have not been forgotten either, with an entire separate wing dedicated to their needs with extensive views of the landscaped gardens and again fully daylight and naturally ventilated.

The centre opened at capacity in March 2018 with a waiting list of 150 children even though the Albany area is almost at saturation point for early childhood centres, with at least 10 large centres within a 3km radius of it.

Some of the images in the gallery have been produced by Caravan Images.

Facts + Figures

Client: Little Doves Early Learning Centre
Location: Albany, Auckland, New Zealand

Construction cost: NZD 3 million
Area: 612m²
Programme: Completed 2018

Project Team: Phil Smith, Evan Crighton,
Akash Kumar, Tiffany Smith

Construction: Keola Ltd
Landscaper: Natural Habitats
Interiors: Guyco Joinery

Image Credit: Mark Scowen

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