Creating a relatable, fun, playful and tactile building was central to Bates Smart’s design concept for the Woodstock Early Learning Centre at Sydney Olympic Park, developed by Ecove Group. Nestled adjacent to the recently completed 36-storey Opal Tower apartments, also designed by the Bates Smart team, the series of seven pavilions making up the Centre are sure to delight the senses of every child who enters its doors when they open later in the year.
And it’s largely thanks to a thoughtful, creative design, including a highly colourful and tactile material palette, driven from the outset by bricks.
While very much integrated into the new Opal Tower development, the Woodstock ELC stands alone as seven distinct pentagonal pavilions, replicating the five sides of the site’s boundaries. Four of the pavilions are playrooms, arranged around a common outdoor play area, and the remaining three house administration and support spaces. Curved corners and pitched rooves, sloping in different directions, complete the pavilions’ unique design.
Jonathan Claridge, Associate, Bates Smart explains, “The pitched roof was designed to echo a typical residential building … and we used curved corners to make the building appear more welcoming and softer, breaking down the scale and making it feel a little more residential or domestic in scale so it wouldn’t be so daunting for the children attending the childcare – so it would seem like a more fun and playful building.”
Following DA approval and prior to construction, Bates Smart worked closely with Robertson’s Building Products, “to determine the specification of those curved bricks, what the radius of those corners could be and the various custom bricks types that were required to achieve those curves,” Jonathan remarks.
Bricks were key to the Centre’s design for their domestic quality and for the scale, size and texture that they add to a design. “We particularly liked the idea of bricks being a textural experience for the children, so they’d be more willing to touch and feel the building. And as we explored this idea further, we liked the idea of using glazed bricks to elevate this domestic material into something more special. And, if it has a glaze on it, it can be a more colourful building, really reinforcing its playful nature,” Jonathan adds.
After consulting with Peter Robertson, who Jonathan says, “was very accommodating of what we were trying to achieve,” the Bates Smart team selected five different Robertson’s Building Products glazed bricks for the ELC – four custom greens and a light grey. The glazed bricks complemented Opal Tower’s green façade, which took its colours and hues from the surrounding Bicentennial Park.
“The way that the light reflects off the bricks at different times of the day is one of those unexpected qualities, and the appearance changes throughout the day; the way the light hits the face of the building and the curves is particularly pleasing,” Jonathan comments. The glazed bricks are also a little different in that “They have a slight texture to them –they’re not just a flat coat of glazing – they feel like they have a unique quality to each brick because the texture is slightly uneven. This adds to the reflective nature of the brick and gives them a more interesting appearance,” Jonathan continues.
The green tones of the glazed bricks certainly are a unique aesthetic. When Woodstock ELC welcomes 80 young children through its doors in a few months’ time there is no doubt they will react just as the Bates Smart team expects them to – with absolute delight and excitement at having a fun and interactive environment in which to learn and play.
Architect: Bates Smart
Product: Glazed Bricks
Developer: Ecove Group
Bricklayer: Aspec Bricklaying Services
Images: Courtesy of Ecove