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University of Otago Childcare Centre


Tepees, forts, playrooms, art spaces, gardens and offices make up the playful microcosm that is the University of Otago Childcare Centre. Hidden behind the street front of five beautifully restored and cleverly connected villas, is a uniquely user-focused and safe environment for 140 children ranging in age from 0-5, where play and learning are seamlessly integrated.


Inspired by the journey from the mountains to the sea, a meandering covered walkway connects the villas to a row of five new cedar clad buildings which enclose the site along the Water of Leith. These structures mimic the form and rhythm of the villa’s familiar domestic scale, but are reinterpreted into a modern form. The use of multiple smaller units creates a sense of overall community within this large childcare facility. Tailored to young children, the integration of colour with natural materials adds tangible quality, warmth and tactility to their built environment while embodying values of storytelling, and preservation. A central green space forms the social heart of the community, where informal gathering and interaction between parents, teachers and children of different age groups can flourish in safety.

Childcare Centre - interior

A strong emphasis on New Zealand biculturalism was present throughout the design process, and is especially evident in the Te Parekeke o Te Ki unit, a bilingual centre promoting and strengthening the use of Te Reo me ona Tikana Maori.

Individual paint schemes were developed for each of the five connected villas reinforcing the rhythm of the surrounding residential streetscape. Intentionally traditional and domestic, heritage colours such as Resene Burnt Sienna, Resene Soapstone and Resene Thistle were used to accentuate carefully restored details and trims, highlighting the character of each building. These were joined by Resene Double Blanc, Resene Panzano, Resene Blackjack, and the roof in Resene Karaka.

Reception, exterior

Conversely, colour was applied in contemporary splashes of yellow and red to the modern cedar forms along the Leith River, creating a dynamic, warm and playful sense of identity.

The interior palettes are calm and restful yet warm and bright, tailored to the age groups and values of each childcare unit. The nursery unit has a soothing palette of Resene Thistle, Resene Bud and Resene Ecru White. Foyer and staff areas are warm and receptive finished in Resene Double Wheatfield, Resene Double Fossil and Resene Ecru White.

Interior playspaces

Inspired by the journey from the mountains to the sea, the schemes transition from warm greens in the nurseries through to shades of blue. Colour was especially important in expressing the identity of the bilingual centre, where Resene Intrigue and Resene Zorba teamed with Resene Ecru White accentuate the warmth of New Zealand Rimu to create a rich and welcoming environment.

Architectural specifier: Parker Warburton Team Architects
Building contractor: Amalgamated Builders
Client: University of Otago Childcare Association
Photographer: Graham Warman
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2015

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