Child centre designed with a child's perspective in mind

Catering for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, Cosmokids provides a range of stimulating play and activity spaces inside and out right in the heart of the city

The outdoor area to the side of Cosmokids architecture, floor, house, gray, black
The outdoor area to the side of Cosmokids is long enough for the kids to gather speed when playing there. In the background is a sandpit placed well away from the entrance into the centre so sand can not be traipsed inside.

For many working parents, the day kicks off with a mad dash to drop pre-schoolers off at the local child centre before battling morning traffic into the city. And the end of the day is no better anxiously sitting in evening rush hour traffic, trying to get back to the centre before closing time.

That's a problem Cosmokids owner Lyn Creagh has aimed to overcome with a new child centre right in the heart of downtown Auckland.

"We looked for premises that were close to where parents work," she says. "Professional parents need some flexibility to allow for meetings and deadlines, or to be able to get to the centre quickly if a sick child needs to be picked up."

The premises she found a Queen St tower block undergoing retrofitting certainly met the location requirements. But the third floor space had another major plus it also had outdoor podium space, a unique asset for pre-school facilities in the centre of the city.

Lyn Creagh called on architect Gordon Moller and project designer Alyssa Miles to work with specialist child care designer Darren Engelbrecht of Naturally Wood on the concept design he had produced, and to take it through to its implementation stage.

Miles says the existing fit-out for a hospitality suite was not only very dated, with a low ceiling and divided into small rooms, it also had particular challenges to overcome.

"The original tower went up in the 1980s, behind a heritage facade, and the proposed child centre sat across the two buildings," she says. "So there was a level change in the middle of the space."

And while the outdoor deck was an obvious boon, there was no easy access to it in the original configuration.

The sleeping room for infants enrolled at Cosmokids ceiling, floor, furniture, home, product, room, window, brown, gray
The sleeping room for infants enrolled at Cosmokids is well enclosed and located in the quietest section of the premises.

"But having a facility like this so close to the city centre was attractive and the old building had a lovely feel that would make it comfortable for children."

Lyn Creagh's overarching requirement was that the centre should feel like a home. Contributing to this is Moller's decision to lower the ceiling space in the toddler's play area, bringing it down to more of a child's scale.

Taking a child-centric approach is fundamental to Darren Engelbrecht's design philosophy.

"Children need a series of different spaces," he says. "There should be quiet, protected spaces away from the circulation paths as well as busy spaces. Some spaces should open, and others closed. And some light while others can be dark."

On top of this, the centre needed three separate areas for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, each specially designed for their differing requirements.

Miles says that the obvious place for the infants was in the heritage section of the building.

"It was tucked away from the main area and had lots of natural light, creating a cosy environment," she says. "Plus the windows were at a low level so children could look out of them at floor level."

The old fit-out had included a kitchen, so this position was retained for the child centre's kitchen, which has been retrofitted with a similar layout.

Adding to the homely atmosphere at the Cosmokids interior design, kitchen, room, table, gray
Adding to the homely atmosphere at the Cosmokids child centre, the kitchen sits at the centre of the space. Facilities such as clean-up areas are designed at different heights so that both the children and staff requirements are met.

Next to this is a large open area with tables and chairs used at meal times and a more structured area where pre-schoolers can get a sense of what it will be like when they move to their primary school.

"As in a home, the kitchen is at the heart of the centre, and everything here is designed for the children to participate and take responsibility as a learning process," says Creagh.

The tables are low and meals and cutlery are placed in the centre for children to help themselves. To the side is a low bench and sink for children to do their own clean up. And a pull out step in the base of this cabinetry can be swung across to the kitchen benchtop so children can safely help with food preparation.

Rather than the typically bright and brash child centre environment, Cosmokids' subtle colour scheme has a more relaxing and calming effect. This means that when colourful elements are added in such as the lockers, chairs and toys they provide strong highlights that bring the space to life.

A block work wall was removed from the infants side of the building and a bi-fold door installed. In front of the dining area, a concrete upstand and old windows were removed and replaced with stacking sliders to open up to the deck. This too is divided up to provide different activity spaces for different age groups a playhouse for toddlers, a tactile display and small water feature for infants, and open space for pre-schoolers.

Contact Cosmokids at Level 3, 125 Queen St, Auckland, email cosmokids@xtra.co.nz, or phone 0800 778 125.

For Darren Engelbrecht at Naturally Wood By Design, email darren@naturallywood.co.nz, phone 027 200 2810, or visit naturallywood.co.nz.

Credit list

credit list
Moller Architects
Electrical engineer
Adsel Electrical
Fire consultant
Holmes Fire
interior flooring
Forbo Marmoleum & Surestep Star from Inzide, Shaw Overlay broadloom carpet from Jacobsen, Riverside Port Grey floor tiles by Jacobsen
Hardie Groove Wall Panels, Laminex Seratone, Jacobsen wall tiles, Tile Space wall tiles
Ceiling panels
Olympus Max ClimaPlus and Heradesign Superfine from Potters Interiors
Joinery timber
Herman Pacific
JSB Lighting
Kitchen manufacture
Naturally Wood
Kitchen appliances
Southern Hospitality
Cosmokids, Auckland
NZ Force Construction
1st Mechanical
Windsor Brass, CS Cavlocks
Exterior flooring
Playground surface by Playbases
Joinery, tables, exterior playground
Naturally Wood
Joinery hardware
Kitchen design
Moller Architects and Naturally Wood
Kitchen benchtop
Caesarstone, concrete, stainless steel
Greenwall design and installation
Hanging Gardens

Story by: Paul Taylor

Photography by: Jamie Cobel

22 Sep, 2017

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