Decorative concrete details for Australian children’s centre by M3 Architecture

- in EXTERIOR DESIGN, KINDERGARTENS
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From the architect: This project acts as a strong, fort-like home for abused children.

Brisbane studio M3 Architecture developed the building for the campus of James Cook University in Townsville. The building’s structure references the off-form concrete and blockwork structures of the original 1960s campus by architect James Birrell. But the stark concrete surfaces are softened by the curving shapes, as well as by the surrounding greenery.

The new project asks what a public realm agenda for children might be like – and not just any children, but those who are in the kind of circumstances so as to require this facility.

Containing administration facilities, daycare and a suite of therapy spaces, the centre is separated into three structures. These are connected by a concrete canopy with curved edges, designed to trace the shapes created by the branches of nearby trees. The interior spaces provide a warm and bright environment with plenty of wooden surfaces and large windows enhancing the sense of connection with nature.

From the architects: “The design is conceived as a concrete block perimeter, with therapy rooms in the inner sanctum, sculpted around two stands of trees, in response to the well-documented benefit that landscape brings to therapy,”

A bull-nosed concrete block was used as the standard unit. This was laid to achieve two patterns – a double stretcher stack bond, and a double stretcher-stretcher bond. The former is used on the front facade where the unit by unit construction of the building can be felt. The latter is used on the side walls, chasing the contours up the hill. At the corner of the building, the blocks intersect and overlap, creating a distinctive pattern of light and shadow.

Protective fences and screens around the edges of the site are constructed using closely spaced logs that reference the surrounding trees. Outdoor play areas and gardens connected to some of the therapy rooms feel protected by the buildings, the trees and the fort-like wooden fences.

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