Set on over 3½ hectares of land, amongst paddocks and streams, Fantails Estate is a new archetype for Early Childhood in NZ – the owner’s vision was a ‘luxury lodge’ for children. Located at the end of a winding, estate-like driveway, we envisaged Fantails Estate to be a childrens retreat – a blend of functionality, aesthetics and sustainability inspired by luxury rural lodges and countryside estates.
In keeping with the concept, the building is broken into six individual blocks fanned out around a geometric timber canopy. Blocks 1-5 are classrooms for different age groups, and block 6, a staff block including kitchen and laundry facilities and administrative spaces.
Each classroom has a north-facing outlook to the large playground and countryside setting, with the playground providing children with seven times the minimum area for outdoor play. Full height, low-E coated glazed sliding doors create seamless indoor-outdoor flow, while framing views out to the playground and surrounding paddocks. Deep canopies and covered art benches create sheltered all-weather areas that allow children to play outside in any weather, and keep the building naturally ventilated for most of the year.
Internally, each classroom has been designed to provide children with an intimate learning environment, featuring facilities that cater for the unique needs of each age group. Custom designed cabinetry and play equipment ensure every space has been well-considered, creating a cohesive feel that carries through from the overall architectural form of the building.
Classrooms all face out to a natural playscape with sandpits, grassy climbing mounds and natural wooden climbing frames. The playground slopes down to a small stream which has been regenerated with native flax and other planting to filter water that runs off from the site. Additional native planting is dotted around the playground to create shaded grassy play areas.
Sustainable features are woven throughout the design. Each block is sized so that daylighting and natural ventilation provide the most optimal internal environment quality, whilst rainwater is collected on site to provide all the buildings water supply, with blackwater also captured and treated on site – the site imports no water and releases no wastewater. The building is oriented to face north for solar gains in winter, while canopies provide shade from the higher summer sun.