Early childhood centre wins design award

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A Hamilton early childhood centre has won a gold medal in a prestigious national design awards at the weekend.

Creators Early Learning Centre Chartwell won a gold pin at the Designers Institute of New Zealand Best Design Awards in Auckland in October in front of a studded crowd of the New Zealand design industries best talent.

The Best Design Awards is an annual showcase of excellence in graphic, spatial, product, interactive and motion design, organised by the Designers Institute of New Zealand. The centre won the award in the ‘spatial’ section, under the ‘healthcare’ category, of the Best Design Awards.

The modern, nature-inspired centre on Rutherford Street in Chartwell, Hamilton, was designed by award-winning architect Phil Smith, of Collingridge and Smith Architects (UK), who is well-known for his environmentally-focused childcare centre design.

The centre has an art and sensory studio, internal garden, veggie patch and water play studio.
It is also is fully solar-powered, and has energy-saving features including underfloor heating, natural ventilation, good insulation levels and low-energy lighting.

The judges said the entry was “beautifully scaled, the spaces support natural and authentic play showing the power of a simple idea, consistently applied” and “had the judges saying ‘I wish I was a kid!’.”

Creators Educational Trust lead design and project manager Kym Gibson said that the Chartwell centre, which opened in January, was designed to encourage children to collaborate, communicate and explore.

“It is important to us at Creators that we create a beautiful, loving environment for our children,” said Ms Gibson. “We felt it should be an inspiring space for them to learn, play and grow. We know the early years are a vital time for brain development, and we’ve created something really special for children at Chartwell.”

Ms Gisbson said that the building’s architecture, interior decoration and educational approach are all characteristic of the organisation’s Reggio Emilia philosophy.

“Everything we teach is grounded in empathy and compassion and harmony with nature, and that is very much reflected in the design aspects,” said Ms Gibson. “It’s reaffirming to win this award, as it confirms that we are on track with all that we do.”

Ms Gibson, who has a design background herself, was very involved in the design of Creators Chartwell and worked closely with architect Phil Smith. “I had a vision for the centre and how I wanted it to look and feel, and I think we achieved that,” said Ms Gibson. “I love what Phil has done, designing something that is both beautiful, sustainable and captures our values completely. He really got us, and shared our vision.”

Ms Gibson said she was also proud of the team at Creators, and the staff, who ensure children at the centre have a wonderful experience. “We are lucky to have a wonderful, creative, collaborative team at Creators,” she said.

Creators Educational Trust is a not-for-profit organisation, has approximately 900 children and 110 staff on its books, at its four early childhood centres and through its nationwide home-based ECE programme, Creators@Home.

Creators Chartwell is licensed for 80 children from birth to five years old, and has about 16 teaching staff. There are other Creators ECE centres at Forest Lake, Grandview and Waipa.

The Creators philosophy is founded on four pillars: love and connection, nature play, values-based learning and the Reggio Emilia approach. This approach was started in the city of Reggio Emilia in Italy after World War Two, where a group of parents offered to care for children to enable other parents to help with the rebuild.

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