Children's Activity CentreEdit profile
Four shipping containers were completely recycled and transformed into a playful Children’s Activity Centre at Skinners Adventure Playground, City of Port Phillip, Australia. This project is part of the backyard of the neighbouring public housing. It is a place where vulnerable kids can study and play after school. The brief was responded to with function, materiality, built form and aesthetics. The design commenced with a community workshop including the kids and staff at Skinners Playground; and local council, the City of Port Phillip. The kids wanted a double storey cubby house. The boys wanted their own space. The girls their separate own space too. Council needed an after school facility to supervise study and play activities; it needed to be low cost; play safe; reduce site construction impacts and risks caused by regular playground break-ins at night. Containers were sliced, staggered and stacked. The building offers a diversity of functions for use by the children. It is not just a playground, but a kind of house / office / school for the flats in front of it. It offers users a safe place to sit, study or play in and around. A variety of multi-function scaled spaces were created for dance, painting classes, playing computer games, study and chilling out. Combined inside-outside play spaces are created when the shipping container doors are open. The construction waste produced by slicing containers turned into a design feature. Material off-cuts were returned into the construction process. The whole carcass of the shipping containers became represented in the final design. Waste materials were reused and adapted to function as structural balustrade, awnings and decorative cladding. This project was delivered on a meagre budget. METHODOLOGY The Children’s Activity Centre was not briefed to be sustainable. However a sustainable methodology is applied to Vitruvius logic. Firmitus (firmness) becomes resilience; utilitus (commodity) becomes comfort; and, venustus (delight) becomes entertainment. RESILIENCE The original building did not physically survive the super-active children. Using shipping containers enabled some pre-construction off-site and halve the construction time on-site. Short term wise, the design anticipated and minimised potential risks caused by regular break-ins at night. In the long term, materials selected were durable to minimise future maintenance requirements. COMFORT During the week, the building is used two hours a day for after school child care. As a consequence the operational energy requirement is small. However we reduce energy further by self-shading the building with a timber deck, staircase, overhangs, awnings; bulk insulation; and, natural ventilation. Energy efficient reverse cycle air conditioning and panel heating provide instant climate control if required. Based on available site services, these were the most economic solutions. For Total Life-Cycle Energy, embodied energy was comparable to operational energy. Strategies were employed to reduce, reuse and recycle. Approximately 90% of the materials were salvaged from site demolition; local council facilities; and recyclers. Recycled materials included doors, windows, joinery, carpet tiles, timber, steel and hardware. Also, rainwater slides off the containers into the pond and wet land. FEEDBACK DESIGN Material off-cuts were re-used to form part of the overall building design. The concept of building life-cycle aims to create zero waste. It proposes the feedback of waste materials into the re-production of construction products, construction and re-building. For this project, the architectural strategy not only returns material off-cuts into the construction process, the whole carcass of the shipping containers becomes represented in the final design. FEEDBACK 01 Timber off-cuts from the deck became soffit linings and deck edging. Corten steel off-cuts were re-fashioned into structural balustrades and awnings. FEEDBACK 02 Corten steel off-cuts from the balustrade and awning designs were used as decorative cladding over the adjoining dilapidated shed. Both the client and builder were actively engaged in the feedback design re-processing resolution. While there was no quantitative analysis, the building provides a visual catalogue of all waste materials. Instead of throwing waste into landfill, it becomes the new feature. The feedback process anticipates the design of waste in all phases of the scope of architectural services. This includes sketch design representation; design development planning; contract documentation detailing, specification and tender; and, design resolution during contract administration. Feedback design process does not suggest that waste should be given to an external source to recycle, nor rely on the chain of custody. As an innovative architectural strategy, feedback design helped minimize life-cycle costs and environmental impacts. Aesthetically, the recycled architectural form introduces design strategies for sustainability discourse - not vice versa. ENTERTAINMENT Upon entering Skinners Playground, one is greeted by the surprise of two shipping containers cantilevered over two other shipping containers. The Children’s Activity Centre provokes commentary on ideas of play and creativity. Essentially it is about fun! The kids were involved in the design of the building, resulting in delight for each of them to see their own ideas spring to life. The Children’s Activity Centre is also play equipment! Functionally, the multi-functional spaces produced the opportunity and flexibility for playing inside, outside and inside-out. It celebrates the associated delight of discovery through surprise. Aesthetically, the building provides a visual catalogue turning waste into feature materials. Delight is also provoked when wondering which cannibalised bits of material super-scale graphics have been cut away & re-positioned from where. “This Children’s Activity Centre by PHOOEY continues their ongoing research into actually dealing with the stuff that is around us and giving it some potent imagery – this is also the way that such a rationale might spread to the wider design community.