Two Worlds of Adventure

04 May 2021
Brief

Situated in the bustling residential centre of Three Kings, Giraffe Early Learning Centre is an ingenious utilisation of limited space.

The client’s vision for this state-of-the-art facility was inspired by nature and animals, creating spaces for young minds to learn and play.

Natural Habitats was tasked to build two integrated and innovative playground landscapes that would make the most of limited space. Finishes were required to be high-quality and natural, being extensions of the architecture to create a seamless, natural experience for children to enjoy.

Project Details

Location: Auckland

Project Type: Commercial Playground

Design: Wiles Read

Build: Natural Habitats

When passing by on foot or car it is hard to miss the striking white and glass façade of the new Giraffe Early Learning Centre. In fact, look close enough and you will notice a whole other world that exists behind the glass.

This world is the crowning feature to the brand-new early learning centre, boasting an adventurous landscape for young minds to learn and grow. The design is centred around natural elements, lush planting, and diverse landscape features, shielded from the street with expansive windows over 17 metres long.


These windows provide the perfect vantage point for children to observe their world in the shelter of a warm microclimate. This microclimate is home to a small township complete with wishing well, rolling hills, spacious sandpit and a spiderweb shading canopy.


Tucked at the back of the Early Learning Centre is a second playscape situated at the base of an impressive 6-7-metre-high soldier pile retaining wall. Although south facing, this compact landscape boasts a sandpit, timber playground with rope crossing an interactive water feature and an expansive deck to run and play.

Both playscapes presented unique challenges for the design and build. The podium landscape housing the upper playground was complex in design with weight restrictions, waterproofing, drainage systems and soil depths.

This playscape also had the added challenge of housing a giant spider web wire system spanning over 17 metres. This system is suspended by 3 concealed columns to support the weight of the wires and in time, climbing plants that will act as a natural shade cover.

The ground level playground features its own challenges due with the verticality of the wall and restrictive size and scale.

Planting in both environments is unique, with man-made conditions upstairs creating an ideal climate for a South American theme featuring vibrant bursts of colour, palms, and rampant tropical climbers. Whereas downstairs, the theme leant itself to a subtropical palette due to the tightness of the space, scale of the retaining wall and low sunlight hours.

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