By Sarah Scott

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Lighting: should aim to emulate the variability and flexibility of nature, from soft, subdued and shadowy to bright task areas. Lights are also eye-catching elements: children love them as a sparkly feature. Texture and pattern: can help to provide spatial differentiation (such as variety of floor finishes), tactile entertainment, as well as acting as a learning tool. Smell: such as the beautiful smell of cooking, garden flowers on the breeze, wood joinery. Avoid chemical paints and plastics. Sound: Providing sound absorption materials and sound insulation to delineate quiet areas can make a significant improvement to the ambient quality of a centre.

Contrast of the unusual can draw attention to a centre, while the built form, its scale and materials still conform to the local precinct’s character. The Tom Tits centre in Stockholm is housed in an existing old warehouse typical of the area, but it is overlaid with the weird and wonderful; a bicycle contraption within a wheel and an over-scaled air balloon act as a beacon. The Fawood centre in London—a simple rectangular grey shed against a backdrop of oppressive grey 1960s housing commission buildings—conforms with its precinct in alignment, scale, form and even materials, but it is covered with bouquets of coloured plastic petals, translucent yet beautifully colourful and very cheering to a primarily migrant clientele caught in a grey London climate.

The preschool and long daycare centre are built around a central communal space that can be utilised by all and provides transparency between the various components. This model is also used in Finland, where several schools are combined on one campus but with a central and transparent communal space that is often a dining area and gallery or library combined. These buildings are designed to have an impact on the neighbourhood and to be seen as a feature and focus, a beacon within the community.

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