Canberra and region - Projects and sites


Capital Hill Early Childhood Centre and Garden, Parliament House, Canberra

overview / location / presentation / Projects


Name of practice: LFA (LFA website)

Location: Parliament House, Canberra ACT, Courtyard North, House Centre Zone, Area 27C.G.01

Client: Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS), Canberra ACT


The 2008 Childcare Centre for Parliament House provides for babies and toddlers aged 0.5 to 3.0 years and has a capacity of 30 places. LFA provided full design services, construction documentation and construction advice, including specialist subconsultant services.

The Commonwealth Heritage Listing of Parliament House required a detailed understanding and appreciation of the heritage significance of the building fabric, external works and landscape, including Moral Rights applicable to the conservation of contemporary heritage works. These requirements were met through a subtle and restrained design approach that fully embraced the established design language of the setting, as well as local and international best-practice in early childhood centres.

Sustainability in terms of the life of the building and the use of passive systems to manage the environment were key factors in the design. Parliament house is 20 years old and was designed for a nominal 200 year life. These factors, including current APH environmental management policies, directly influenced the choice of materials and technologies, as well as the design approach adopted. The project was delivered on a 'fast track' construction management basis with external works, garden and landscape costs of $357,000 (ex GST) and internal building costs of $790,000 (ex GST).

DPS project and planning processes required close liaison between a range of stakeholders, including the original designer, Romaldo Guirgola, key DPS branches and the selected centre operator, Anglicare. The project required exhaustive architectural and landscape design verification, presentation and programming to meet Parliamentary project standards.

The overall design approach is best described as 'Design with Respect', and was achieved through careful consideration of the special cultural values of Parliament House in terms of its embodied design principles and heritage status, as well as the special needs of babies and very young children to engage them in a garden environment for play, contact with nature and personal growth.

The project incorporates the latest research findings of early childhood educators both in Australia and overseas, including the Reggio Emilio childcare centres in Italy and Australian work of early childhood development consultant Prue Walsh.

Because the project recognises and incorporates the high levels of parental and community values expected in caring for our very young children, it is an excellent model for the profession. It demonstrates to the public and future practitioners the importance of the childcare environment in the whole development of future citizens. While exceeding Australian minimum standards for play areas, the design sets a sensible benchmark of responsible 'best practice' to address the DPS project brief.

By successfully resolving overlooking issues from the adjacent wings of the building, the design solution provides a useful example of how to incorporate outdoor childcare spaces within built up settings, without compromising visual privacy criteria. Careful attention to scale, form, colour and texture, as well as the underlying design philosophy of the setting, enables the garden to blend seamlessly into a highly sensitive outdoor space within a Commonwealth Heritage facility.

The LFA design team wishes to acknowledge the enlightened and highly professional contribution of the DPS executive, briefing and project groups to the success of the project, including the work of DPS project manager Harriet Spring.


overview / location / presentation / Projects



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