We all remember the story of the ugly duckling.
You know, the one where an ‘ugly’ baby duckling transforms into a stunning swan? A story of struggle and perseverance, of hidden potential and an astonishing transformation. Well, the classic fairy tale is a lot like the story of New Shoots Hillcrest on Auckland’s North Shore – our very first restored early childhood centre.
After 10 years of reshaping New Zealand’s early childhood with holistic education and purpose-built centres, we found a building that was simply screaming out to be transformed into something beautiful.
Read on and discover the story behind our latest children’s centre.
Finding a gem
On a generous piece of land in Auckland’s Hillcrest neighbourhood on the North Shore sat a vacant old building. Built in the 1980s and originally used by New Zealand Tertiary College, it spent many years as an education training centre. But when training ceased several years ago, the building was left abandoned and empty.
New Shoots was searching for a spot to accommodate the nearby families in need of quality early childhood education when we stumbled upon the site. We wanted to build a spacious centre accessible to the growing suburbs of Birkenhead, Glenfield, Northcote, Takapuna, and the business hub of Wairau.
Was it rundown? Yes. Was it old? Sure. Was it child-ready? Absolutely not.
But it had good bones: a single-story building with a central courtyard. We just couldn’t knock it down. So, we started brainstorming…How can we keep this building, yet still put our New Shoots touch on it, making it stunning, architectural, and a perfect fit for infants, toddlers and preschoolers?
Turning old into new
New Shoots has built a reputation around our beautiful, architectural early childhood centres designed specifically with young children in mind. Somewhere they can play and explore with confidence and security, a home-away-from-home where they’ll feel at ease.
But this former training centre stopped us in our tracks. For the first time, we didn’t want to knock down and build; we wanted to refurbish, repurpose, and recycle. Build something new out of something old.
Our own Ugly Duckling story
Instead of the clean slate our Architects and builders usually start with, the building already existed. The challenge was to breathe new life into it, modernise it, and make it perfect for children.
- Working within the original structure, our team:
- Gutted the inside of the building for a completely new interior layout
- Reclaimed what we could of the existing fabric
- Whitewashed the tired-looking brick cladding for a modern, minimal, Scandinavian look
- Recladded some external walls with metal
- Removed all the old floor coverings and polished the existing concrete floors
- Replaced windows with full height doors and floor-to-ceiling glass roller doors.
Each room was fitted with age-appropriate facilities: kitchenettes, sleep rooms, and child-sized toilets. It’s simple, efficient and functional, yet stylish and homely.
The central courtyard shines
The fascination of the original building began at its heart, a central courtyard fully encased by the building surrounding it. It would have been a perfect spot for children, if only it was a little bigger.
Our team enlarged this courtyard using the garage doors to open up the internal corridors providing great sun protection. A corner of the building was cut away to link the landscaped play areas, connecting spaces and improving flow.
We worked with a landscape design duo Onestone Landscaping and Taylor Construction to soften the building and create a calming, natural backdrop to our outdoor structures and sandpits.
The building’s full circle evolution
Between the new windows and doors, the repainted bricks and refurbished interior, this abandoned building transformed before our eyes. Old to new, rundown to modern, duckling to swan. We also love that this centre’s original function – education – has been returned.
Maybe this full circle effect of the building’s evolution is what gives our children and whānau the sense that Hillcrest just feels right.
A sustainably build children’s centre
In New Zealand, land is a premium – and nowhere more so than Auckland – so it just didn’t seem right that this building was sitting empty and under-utilised before inevitably getting knocked down.
By repurposing the building we extended the life of many materials and reduced our environmental impact. By gifting the window joinery that was removed to make way for our new doors to a school in the Cook Islands, we helped out a community in need and stopped these supplies going to landfill. Refurbishing this centre is good for the planet and upholds our values of sustainability.
Upcycling and Op Shopping
Given that so much of the building itself was saved from landfill, we were inspired to take the sustainability even further. We turned to our very own “Queen of Op Shopping”, New Shoots director and co-owner, Michelle Pratt.
While some people feel intimidated walking into secondhand stores, Michelle sees a world of possibilities. She looks past the clutter and dust to see gems hidden in plain sight.
Stainless steel goblets and gravy boats.
Adorable ceramic mice and glittery resin bangles.
Michelle is always scouring secondhand shops, collecting pre-loved treasures that can line the shelves at our New Shoots centres, sitting side-by-side with our hand-picked natural resources.
Ongoing sustainability at New Shoots
Limiting carbon footprints. Ethical supply chains. Toxin-free cleaners. Since our first childcare centre was born a decade ago, sustainability has always been one of New Shoots defining values.
As the situation gets more urgent, we are doing more and more to reduce, reuse, and recycle. We now look at everything through this lens, finding ways to restore nature, limit waste and refresh the old wherever possible – from resources to buildings! See the beauty of our newly transformed centre.
Contact us to register your child at our Hillcrest centre.
To learn more about New Shoots Children’s Centre: