Opinion by Richard Baird Posted 1 December 2016
East Sydney Early Learning & Community Centre is a state of the art space located on Bourke Street. It provides childcare places for parents living or working in the inner city suburbs of Sydney. The centre, designed by ABA Architects, features five play rooms set over three levels, indoor playground on each floor and an open-air play area on the top floor. The space also includes a distinctive signage and wayfinding system, developed by Australian graphic design studio Toko, inspired by children’s building blocks.
ABA Architects took a four 4 storey 1920’s warehouse and converted it into a mini-city, at child scale, with gardens and recreational space, a sandpit central-plaza with open roof and brightly painted utilities running above. Check out more of the interior here.
Toko’s signage and wayfinding system does a good job of connecting architectural concept and an interior of light colour, simple forms and practical materials with child’s play, and effectively utilises this to label spaces and direct traffic. The lexicon of modern architecture, the systematic principles of wayfinding and city infrastructure, and the modular nature of early learning share a commonality and feel like a natural fit.
Colour and material palette appears light, cheerful and contemporary with a pleasant mix of wood and painted surfaces that clearly draws on children’s building blocks, without appearing childish, ABA’s interior architecture and perhaps also serves as an expression of the kinds of toys available at the centre, which also appear to be wood. It is a real shame that this does not also extend to brand identity.
Geometric shapes, alongside colour and in conjunction with a type choice of soft forms, monolinear lines and rounded terminals provide enough variation and communicative clarity to build a practical system, establish a compelling, playful and interesting aesthetic that utilises both contrast (below) and continuity (above), and works well with simple and more complex directions. More from Toko on BP&O.