A collection of three early years centres, based on a reference design produced by East Ayrshire Council, built in Kilmaurs, Netherthird and Nether Robertland. The buildings provide early learning and childcare facilities in a high-quality environment specifically designed to address the needs of young children, ELC practitioners and parents in a manner that promotes the innovative and efficient utilisation of space. The buildings will support the Scottish Government’s ambition to almost double the provision of free early learning and childcare in Scotland from 600 to 1140 hours by 2020. The designs all take advantage of the requirements of Space to Grow that high quality external play space can be used to increase the registered capacity of an early year’s centre.
The designs had to respond to the latest guidance shaping early years childcare provision in the Space to Grow document and demonstrate affordability while being scalable up and down and suitably adaptable to suit the huge variety of environments across the country.
The buildings all share common elements and generally vary only in scale and minor layout changes.
Externally the buildings have a simple pitched form with punched openings and are wrapped in a dark fibre cement cladding to reinforce this straightforward appearance. Detailing is also simplified and discreet with the intention that nothing detracts from the reading of the buildings as their elemental shape.
The new early year’s centres provide an exciting and nurturing environment for young children. They are based on the latest thinking to provide a balance between learning experiences and opportunities inside and outside and the learning environment will engage children through space, light, noise and materials to stimulate and nurture.
As part of the ambition to deliver 1140 hours of childcare, the new buildings will benefit the community by allowing parents to return to work more flexibly. They are also designed to be a social link for parents/carers and provide opportunities for families to access services. A family room is included and additional outreach services can be hosted here.
The design allows for complete free-flow between inside and outside, while allowing the early years practitioners the ability to subtly shape and control the layout of the spaces. Boundaries between inside and outside are blurred to ensure that the children feel no controls on where and how they choose to play. Covered external spaces allow the outdoors to be used in all weathers.
The spaces within the building, both in scale and atmosphere, provide for a variety of play and learning environments, from small, child sized spaces to large, group activity areas. Vertical circulation and links between parts of the building at different levels will help the children to develop their spatial awareness and have an understanding of activities both throughout the building and outside, again enhancing their learning.
By investing in the design process, the clients have been able to enhance these buildings. Robust and affordable material solutions mean that funds could be used to enhance the outdoor play experience. Imaginative use of a simple building form has allowed for the creation of a wide variety of internal spaces without requiring complex structural solutions. Innovative design of the internal play areas, with cargo nets and galleries has allowed for the area funding metrics to be stretched to provide as much area as possible with the budget.
These buildings demonstrate a collaborative effort between a large group of stakeholders, designers, and funders, all working together towards an aspirational aim. Their design is a synthesis of the most up to date teaching practices, the desires of the children and practitioners who will occupy the buildings and the pragmatism of those responsible for their funding. At all times, the happiness of those who will use the buildings has been kept in mind.