Family and Children’s Centre

HASSELL The Harbour Family and Children’s Centre is located on the rooftop of the largest supermarket in the Melbourne Docklands. Providing spaces for 150 children, from infant to five years, the centre aims to showcase the vision for outdoor play and learning as a fundamental aspect of early childhood development, and establish a benchmark for childcare facilities within Australia. The outdoor area is one of Melbourne’s largest intensive green roofs. Featuring two sandpits, digging patch, water play zone, kitchen garden and a flexible-use soft fall area − it is designed as a garden for exploration. A series of nature-based play spaces express a new direction in early learning environments by providing a range of diverse and flexible play spaces which lead to tactile experiences and nature play without over prescribing the use of the areas.

Sustainability initiatives for the centre included minimisation of water use and rainwater harvesting. The large roof area allows substantial rainwater collection for irrigation and re-use, and prolific vertical tanks are positioned within the internal cavity walls. Children are engaged in monitoring the water storage levels and through this involvement gain an understanding of its importance. Green roofs are an important tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to address climate change. This outdoor play space becomes a tool in teaching new generations about the significance and meaning of nature and ecology. This unique learning environment is an important addition to community infrastructure within a fast-growing, high-density commercial and residential precinct.

Landscape Architecture: HASSELL
Collaboration: in association with Children’s Landscapes Australia
Project name: The Harbour Family and Children’s Centre
Location: Docklands, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Completion date: 2009
Area: 1,150 sqm
Budget: A$550,000
Client: City of Melbourne, VicUrban and Lend Lease in partnership
Consultants: Architect: DesignInc, Structural Engineer: Irwin Consult, Hydraulic Engineer: Alexander & Associates
Photography by Andrew Lloyd

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