Copeland Associates Architects 3 New Shoots ECEC Greenhithe

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Director
    Barry Copeland
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Director
    Barry Copeland
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Marco Duthie, Franklin Mwanza, Tuhiena Bhaumik, Tanya Poletayeva
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Chloe Forsman, Peak Construction
  • Client
    New Shoots
Judge's comments:

An invigorating place, the design displayed smart use of lighting and materiality that was consistent, bold and wasn't afraid to push the boundaries for its use.


Our client New Shoots saw an opportunity in a site which many others thought was unusable. Originally, the site was split into two areas by a stream and had become an abandoned and neglected wasteland that stored and collected motorway run-off. The site was overgrown and an eyesore in an otherwise attractive neighborhood.

Our brief was to rejuvenate the site by creating a nature-centric design that interweaves environment and classroom, while achieving the client’s programmatic requirements and integrating sustainable practices.

Designs that give a sense of calmness while inviting curiosity through a sensory experience have been proven to provide a powerful platform for growth and learning. These elements were at the forefront of the design approach and explored through materials, form, scale, and layout.

Upon arrival children walk along an elevated timber bridge over the native plants and rejuvenated wetland and immediately experience a sense of adventure and exploration. Looking around sparks the imagination and fosters a feeling of leaving the everyday and entering a unique world.

The pods are arranged to form a triangular courtyard. This play area is partially protected by a generous translucent veranda, providing diffused light over external links between pods. The roof forms elevate to the east, allowing the morning light to energise the childrens’ activity spaces. High-level electrically operated windows provide passive ventilation for natural airflow throughout the day. Rainwater is stored in detention tanks and re-used for flushing toilets and irrigation.

Superstructures are an assembly of cross-laminated timber panels and steel frames; both systems were prefabricated off-site and quickly erected on site. Services are discretely organised within each building giving careful thought and consideration to respect the nature of the solid timber construction.

Each of the three passively controlled pods has its own colour palette reflecting the world’s primary elements:

Building A: Toddlers (age 2-3) & staff
Nature: Green

Building B: Infants (age 0-2)
Earth: Light Terracotta

Building C: Preschool (age 3-5)
Water: Blue

Each building's interior has a soft timber backdrop from the exposed structural cross-laminated timber panels. This adds another textural link connecting to the surrounding environment. Large sections of glazing enhance the site’s elevation, bringing the outside in, and creating a sense of being amongst the trees.

There is a harmonised visual language between architecture, interiors and furniture. This creates a flow of design continuity and wayfinding within the centre. New Shoots themselves designed bespoke cabinetry to suit interior spaces and respective palettes, reinforcing this flow. We worked closely with lighting designers to conceive a lighting approach that creatively weaves throughout the spaces, giving soft, curvaceous elements to the orthogonal internal walls.