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Kahukura Forum Seating - Prototype, Waimairi School


The designers wanted to incorporate a degree of sophistication through colour choice, while retaining a sense of fun and compatibility with both the existing space and future buildings.

Waimairi School, situated in North West Christchurch, was in a similar position to many other earthquake-damaged Canterbury schools, caught in a stalemate of tired buildings needing updating and refurbishing but having to put major projects on hold as they plan ahead towards rebuilding.


Waimairi School engaged education interior design company, Thinkspace Interiors, to assist with prototyping furniture and learning spaces within existing buildings earmarked for demolition in 2017. One such prototype project was to design flexible, tiered forum seating for sixty students in an existing learning space.

The design brief was very clear and centred around student engagement and learning outcomes for large group discussion forums; all sixty students needed to be kept engaged and focussed and feel connected to the rest of the group on an equal level. The furniture needed to be easily moveable, not dominate the space and sit comfortably within the existing environment and integrate seamlessly into a new building in two to three years’ time.

Individual pieces

With an extremely limited budget and faced with the reality that the project would need to be completed using volunteer help from parents and staff, Thinkspace designers opted for plywood construction for its simplicity and ease of use, and chose to celebrate and enhance the natural beauty of the Radiata Pine plywood with Resene Aquaclear semi-gloss waterborne polyurethane.

A colour scheme that would inject some much needed life and vibrancy into the existing tired 1970s classroom was required. The designers wanted to incorporate a degree of sophistication through colour choice, while retaining a sense of fun and compatibility with both the existing space and future buildings. The colours needed to be gender neutral and appeal to a wide age range from 5 to 11 year olds, without the predictability of primary colours.

Vibrancy in colour

Not being in a position to change or alter what was already in situ posed quite a challenge for Thinkspace Interiors as they had to take into account existing colours, timber, lino-clad walls, chipped radiators and threadbare carpet – the proverbial sow’s ear! Consideration also needed to be given to the furniture’s future in a new building.

Durability and ease of cleaning were the two key selection criteria when choosing paint finishes. Resene Lustacryl semi-gloss waterborne enamel was chosen for the horizontal seat panels due to its ease of application and very good abrasion resistance. The semi-gloss finish enhanced the vivid colours beautifully contrasting with the more natural plywood. Resene Aquaclear semi-gloss waterborne urethane varnish was applied as final coats to both the painted horizontal services and all plywood panels to ensure long term durability and ease of cleaning within the physically demanding classroom environment.

Seating layouts

The resulting scheme, limited to just three colours: Resene Citrus, Resene Yellow Sea and Resene Belladonna, and finished with Resene Aquaclear, provides an effectively striking and slightly unexpected juxtaposition of somewhat off-beat colours that complement the exposed plywood faces of the furniture and the existing elements in the room. What has been created is a vibrant focal point that serves to inspire the students’ creativity and enhance their learning environment, without overwhelming the space.

When the chosen colours were presented to the teachers they loved the bright green Resene Citrus and golden yellow Resene Yellow Sea but were ambivalent towards the purple Resene Belladonna and asked if this could be changed. The designers looked at possible alternatives but really felt that these three colours were the best possible combination and asked that the staff trust their judgment.

Shortly after the furniture was completed the teachers asked for one more mobile unit to accommodate visitors and were asked which of the three colours they would like it finished in. Their unanimous decision – Resene Belladonna please!

This colourful and simple furniture has been extremely well received and put to a myriad of uses by students, many unexpected and not anticipated by the designers or teachers. They have embraced and explored the many possibilities presented by the prototype and have a taste of what the future of education design may hold for them as they look forward to their school’s rebuild.

Architectural specifier: Thinkspace Interiors Ltd
Building contractor: Thinkspace Interiors Ltd and Steve Bamford Builders
Client: Waimairi School
Other key contributor – plywood panel fabricator: MWF Joinery and Manufacturing
Other key contributors: Mike Anderson, Waimairi School Principal, Staff and Parent Community
Photographer: Melanie Bloom
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2015

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