Play Pods – holistic early learning

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Play Pods are the first in a series of design, manufacture and assembly products our studio is exploring. They combine the function of a number of separate elements into a singular object.

The Play Pods concept was our design response to a childcare centre brief received from our client. Their chosen site was an existing 1960s office building in Sydney. The opportunity we identified enabled us to consolidate a number of brief objectives and associated functions into a singular, hybrid object. This decision would then achieve significant spatial efficiency and as a consequence a positive economical outcome. Four bespoke timber pods have been conceived which incorporate seating, display, storage, enclosure and separation. In addition to the embedded functions the pods themselves serve the additional purpose of subdividing the floor plate into smaller gathering spaces, providing physical, visual and acoustic separation.

Architect/Designer: Silvester Fuller

Engineer: SDA Structires

Fabricator: Silverster Fuller in collaboration with Laminar

Builder: MPA

Silvester Fuller in collaboration with Laminar designed, fabricated and assembled the pods. Each pod consists of approximately 250 individual pieces, machined, coded and prepared offsite prior to delivery. These dynamic play spaces exemplify the possibilities of timber through their singular use of timber, demonstrating its structural and spatial versatility and design potential.

For the first time, our studio completed not only the design, but also the fabrication and assembly of the pods. Owning the entire process enabled a greater efficiency of delivery as we produced only 3D documentation, with no 2D documentation necessary. The result of this process was an increase in available design time and the elimination of an possibility for errors translating between 2D and 3D. Each pod is CNC machine cut from high quality WISA 18mm birch plywood, then finished in highly durable - Non-hazardous Cabot's Cabothane Clear Water Based sealant. The construction process resembles a 3D jigsaw puzzle. Each pod consists of approximately 250 individual pieces, machined, coded and prepared offsite prior to delivery.

The pods are made completely from intersecting layers of high quality birch plywood. The entire structure is self supporting requiring no additional framing or structure. The significant health benefits of timber for children in a learning environment were also a key factor in selecting timber for the project, (Planet Ark's report Wood - Housing, Health, Humanity). With the physical and psychological health benefits timber possess, the pods aim to promote these assets within the crucial growth environment of the childcare centre.

Being able to be disassembled makes the pods re-usable, and they are ultimately completely recyclable.

Each pod has a different focus; Reading, Music, Arts and Science. In keeping with the childcare providers philosophy of a holistic approach to early learning that is “child-centred, play-based, in unity with nature” the pods manifest these principles as immersive educational play spaces. The form of each pod is derived from a combination of two primary shapes inspired by the carefully crafted timber gifts inherent on our client’s childcare philosophy. Each pod consists of a primary cube divided into a grid of 7 x 7 x 7. From the primary grid a subtraction of either a sphere, cone, ellipse or cylinder is made to create the internal space.

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