The Hataitai Playcentre is a parent-run co-operative providing high-quality ECE to children. All decisions are made by consensus, and all members must be satisfied with any proposal for change prior to it proceeding. This project was one that evolved over time, with great input from centre members, and significant philosophical discussion around use of materials and colours. Budget was also very important as the members had to fundraise a substantial portion of the project.
The existing Playcentre building was much-loved but had some serious flaws. The ablutions were very old, and did not provide ease of use nor ease of cleaning. They were also located in the most sun drenched area of the centre, and had the ideal access to the outdoor play area. The kitchen could not be closed off, and was also immediately adjacent to the bathrooms, which did not reflect good tikanga. To use the bathrooms members had to walk through the kitchen. These were some of the key concerns around relicensing the Centre, along with not being able to isolate a sick child, or provide a dedicated administration space. A project was undertaken to address these issues.
The project followed a Reggio Emilia congruent approach to the learning environment. Playcentre philosophy and Reggio Emilia philosophy both value the child as a capable and resilient learner and there are many similarities in the value systems of each with respect to use of natural materials and connection to the outdoors. These similarities are also aligned with tikanga Māori, which was fundamental to the project.
The project re-positioned the kai table at the heart of the space, adjacent to the kitchen. This now allows the play spaces to extend to a light-filled lean-to where the ramshackle ablutions were. The new ablutions are rehoused in an old store-room space, with access off the hall-way. This re-organisation allowed the two most problematic areas in terms of building fabric to be remedied, which also extended the life of the 100+ year old building. An office was also provided, allowing administration work to be undertaken during session times, and doubles as an isolation space as required.
The indoor-outdoor flow/access is more streamlined. The children are able to manage their own hygiene needs with well-located low handwashing sinks that utilise infra-red tap control. Natural materials are used where possible, and all the interiors are painted to a light palette, which allows the building to become a natural backdrop for the childrens play and learning space.