Three Trees Learning Centre, Christchurch
The ‘Three Trees’ Early Learning Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, embraces a natural approach that focuses on providing children with experiences to learn from and grow within nature. The pedagogy of the centre focuses on “child-centered learning through play that embraces the great outdoors”, and this philosophy has been carried through in the architectural approach to the design of this Early Learning Centre.
The most striking feature of the centre is its sculptural modulating roof. The folding timber geometry works to soften and break up the mass of the building, extending the geometry of the canopy of trees from around the site into the built structure. Timber features as the dominant material throughout the buildings façade for both its visual warmth and softness, as well as for maximum carbon sequestration (also achieved through timber structure).
The building site originally featured many large mature trees, and it was important to retain as many of these as possible. Careful planning and orientation mean the building is nestled into the site without having to remove an excessive amount of trees, and children can play amongst a natural environment which also features reinstated native planting. Any trees that were removed have been recycled into bark chip and stepping logs in the playground. Part of the garden has been left untouched, to create a more natural and wild outdoor experience for children in contrast to the landscaped playgrounds.
Internally, the classrooms have been arranged to provide flexibility in room sizes. The six classrooms have been designed with the idea of sharing services, with main play spaces separated with folding walls so they can be adjusted for different group sizes. The design maximises daylight and natural ventilation in deep plan rooms through an extensively glazed façade, which helps ensure a healthy indoor environment is maintained whilst also making the building efficient to run.
Facts + Figures
Client: Three Trees Learning Centre
Location: Rolleston, Christchurch New Zealand
Construction cost: TBC
Programme: Completed 2019