Meeting increased demand for childcare and giving the littlest members of UTS’s community access to a supportive, stimulating early learning environment have been central to the design of the new Blackfriars Children’s Centre, which welcomes its first children later this month.
The purpose-built centre was officially opened by City of Sydney Councillor Jess Scully and UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs at an event on 14 November, which was also attended by Kate Washington MP, NSW Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education. Its opening signals the start of the next chapter for the historic Blackfriars precinct, which boasts an education legacy stretching back more than a century.
Offering 84 childcare places – 34 more than its previous premises, which also sits within the precinct – the UTS Child Care Inc. centre caters to increasing demand from UTS staff, students and ABC staff with young children, who receive priority consideration at the centre. Local families are also able to access the service.
The building was designed by architects DJRD and Lacoste + Stevenson, with construction by Ichor Constructions commencing in February 2017.
Children’s learning and development needs are at the forefront of the centre’s design, with key spaces including five playrooms, large dining area with commercial-grade kitchen, large wrap-around veranda and extensive outdoor play areas. Outside, children have access to sandpits, a chicken pen (for much-loved hens Rosie and Sara), raised veggie garden for children to plant, soft-fall play spaces and even a build-your-own-cubby area.
Shapes and building blocks
One of the centre’s most notable architectural features is a series of pitched roofs, designed by architects DJRD and Lacoste + Stevenson to echo the shapes of adjacent stone heritage buildings and the Victorian terrace houses that line surrounding streets. While taking inspiration from the past, the contemporary centre responds to the needs of today’s young children through its playful, colourful design and seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces.
Located, appropriately, in the heart of Sydney’s bustling education hub, the Blackfriars precinct has a legacy of learning that stretches back to 1884 when the NSW Department of Education established Blackfriars Public School on the site. In fact, black and white images from the school’s past feature prominently on the new building’s façade and inside the centre, preserving this legacy.
UTS’s investment in childcare spans almost 40 years, with the first parent-run cooperative established by the Students’ Association in the late 1970s. The original Blackfriars Children’s Centre on Buckland St opened in 1995 and, in the 22 years since, has welcomed generations of young children through its doors. Currently rated as exceeding seven key quality areas under the National Quality Framework, the centre looks forward to enhancing further its early learning reputation in its new premises.
While the centre looks towards the future, so too does the precinct, with the next stage of transformation to include the creation of a UTS industry hub on the site of the old childcare centre.
A quick history
- 1884 – Construction of Blackfriars Public School begins
- 1906 – First kindergarten in NSW established at Blackfriars
- 1912 – Blackfriars Public School introduces Montessori methods of teaching
- 1918 – Classes for children with disabilities introduced at Blackfriars
- 1924 – Correspondence school opens at Blackfriars to educate children in remote areas
- 1995 – Blackfriars Children’s Centre opens
- 2017 – Blackfriars Children’s Centre relocates to new premises
- Read about the final countdown to the new Blackfriars Children’s Centre opening.
- Watch a timelapse video of the centre’s construction.
- Visit the Blackfriars Children’s Centre project page.
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