Designing for kids is far from child’s play. How do you balance aesthetic beauty with child-friendly functionality? Infantile stimulation with, well, taste? Nevertheless, against all odds, the team behind the brand new Skyplay North Perth School of Learning have somehow done it with aplomb. Let’s take a closer look at this unique take on educational architecture.
Educational Architecture Re-Imagined
With its double-height floor-to-ceiling windows and industrial accents, Skyplay is worlds away from your typical daycare setup, which is just what its architects intended.
Spread over three floors, the visually striking design is the creative brainchild of architects Tom Godden and Matthew Crawford. Together, the duo sought to design a sophisticated building for children ‘unlike others they’d so frequently come across’. “The design was inspired by the plasticity of so many existing childcare centers,” explains Godden — “a what not to do approach.”
Given its modest 1,550-meter-square (16,684 sq. ft.) size and the pre-existing heritage-listed Police Station, this compact suburban site demanded an altogether different design approach to the projects Godden and Crawford typically work on. The Police Station is “an iconic piece of Australian Architecture. [As such,] we sought to place the Police Station at the top of the design,” shares Godden.
The Police Station makes up the rear of the site, sitting behind a brutalist-inspired three storey form which houses the heart of the daycare center.
“Prior to project inception, the site was poorly maintained and the heritage building highly dilapidated. A meticulous process of uncovering the original building fabric and assessing dilapidation ensured [it] was honored back into the forefront of public regard.” — Godden.
An Industrial Revolution
Inside, off-form concrete and plywood panel walls are the perfect foil to the interior’s colorful toys and playful furniture. It’s an unexpected juxtaposition, given the typically foreboding nature of the industrial brutalist style — but it surprisingly works. The organic aesthetic lends the space an air of calm and serenity, regardless of how rowdy class gets! Overall, the bright synthetic design usually associated with kids spaces has been replaced with naturally durable yet beautiful materials.
“As the architects, walking into the center and witnessing the joy and awe of the children exploring the spaces we drew on paper months before continues to bring us satisfaction and accomplishment.” — Godden.
This focus on nature is an obvious running theme in Skyplay. There’s the statement trees and sandbox for instance, which have been sensitively incorporated inside the building. Also note the use of large glass windows, which allows for a visual connection to nature at all times.
Throughout Skyplay, all of the indoor spaces are directly adjacent to covered outdoor play areas which kids can play in all year round. What a great way to ensure a holistic learning environment!
Having set out to create a daycare like no other, it’s safe to say that Godden and Crawford absolutely succeeded. At first glance, Skyplay more closely resembles the office of a trendy Silicon Valley start-up. However, underlying the clever design and impressive statement accents is a sense of playfulness which makes the space fit for its youthful occupants. All in all, Skyplay successfully combines fresh contemporary design with all the necessary functionality required for a child-friendly environment. Now if only I could go back to being a kid again …