surrounded by wild gardens and native bush, the three trees learning centre in rollueston, christchurch designed by CASA (collingridge and smith architects), uses sustainable design to provide children with an environment that fosters learning and growth through a natural discovery approach. a core aspect of the client’s pedagogy is that the building had to act as the child’s third teacher, or an environmental steward. so, the centre was designed to reflect this vision, creating a seamless transition between the child’s built environment and the outdoors. licensed for 130 children and with a total built area of 634 sqm, the school incorporates natural materials, unique shapes and interactive play apparatus to intrigue, motivate and excite young minds.

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situated next to a reserve, the canopy of mature trees that surround the building were translated architecturally through the sculptural modulation of the roof canopy. collingridge and smith architects created varied geometry, all clad in cedar, which reflects the dappled light from the trees, creating a soft and warm transitional space between classrooms and the outdoors.

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the purpose-built centre features six spacious classrooms arranged into pairs to create three main learning hubs, reflecting the three trees pedagogy. the three hubs share services and art spaces, encouraging interaction between groups of children. the leafy landscape forms a vibrant backdrop against the interior colour palette of soft blues, white and natural materials – a relaxing colour scheme perfect for rest and quiet times. classrooms feature custom-made furniture so that each space is unique and carefully considered for the children who will be using it.

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the building has been designed so that the natural ventilation is better than new zealand’s building code standards. this natural airflow is enhanced through a stacking effect, where high level skylights at the rear of the building allow daylight to enter and provide air extract. much of the façade is extensively glazed, providing passive solar gain. overheating in the summer is prevented by natural ventilation and shade from the roof canopy.

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natural daylight fills classrooms to a level that is three times over the minimum for code, making artificial lighting obsolete during daylight hours. materials are responsibly sourced and feature eco-label certification or low or zero voc/formaldehyde. to help reinstate the native bush, part of the playground has been left untouched, creating a wild, natural environment for children to explore- a perfect place for children to make bug hotels and learn about the diversity of new zealand plant and wildlife.

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because the site featured many large and mature trees, the building was carefully placed to retain all but a few poorer specimens. those that were removed have been repurposed as bark chip and stepping logs, so no wood was wasted. any stormwater on the site goes to soakage in the playground for watering the planting – zero rainwater goes offsite.

CASA integrates a sustainable learning center with new zealand's nature in christchurch

CASA integrates a sustainable learning center with new zealand's nature in christchurch

CASA integrates a sustainable learning center with new zealand's nature in christchurch

CASA integrates a sustainable learning center with new zealand's nature in christchurch

CASA integrates a sustainable learning center with new zealand's nature in christchurch

CASA integrates a sustainable learning center with new zealand's nature in christchurch

CASA integrates a sustainable learning center with new zealand's nature in christchurch

 

 

project info:

 

design: collingridge and smith architects

project name: three trees learning center

location: rolluen, christchurch, new zealand

 

designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

 

edited by: cristina gomez | designboom