NSHWAASNANGONG CHILDCARE & FAMILY CENTRE
Location London ON
Client Southern Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre
Type New Construction
Size 10904 sf
The Nshwaasnangong Child Care & Family Centre is a first of its kind Indigenous led child care centre. The centre will provide early childhood services and cultural and language programming, such as land-based learning, ceremonies, and community support, to children and families in London and across Southwestern Ontario.
It was initially conceived as a feminine form to hold and protect Indigenous children and their caregivers. Upon entering the Centre, users will feel important as individuals but also an essential part of a bigger whole. These aspirations led to an oval-shaped floor plan and a tiered curved roof, that is lower in spaces where the children are the most.
Once the overall shape was set, it became important to flood the central interior spaces with daylight and a ring of clerestory windows was introduced into the design. This will allow sunbeams to shine through the clerestory that will change their position as the sun travels across the sky each day and cycles through a low path in the winter to a high path in the summer. The change of seasons and time of day will have an impact on how the central spaces are experienced and help the children to understand the cyclical nature of an Indigenous world view.
It was also important to enclose the children in natural and non-toxic materials. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) was selected as the primary building material for this reason but also for its warmth, its ability to capture carbon, and its production that makes effective use of otherwise low-grade wood species. CLT was selected as a contemporary material that instils many Indigenous traits.
Fun was also considered to be very important. Efforts were taken to expose the wood members so that the children can see and understand how Nshwaasnangong is put together much like the interior of a traditional longhouse, wigwam or bighouse. The structure was also set as low as practical to be ‘kid sized’ to avoid any feeling of being cavernous.
It is not surprising that the design has been likened to many animal forms. Nicknames given by those involved with the project include the Turtle, the Beetle, the Whale, and the Butterfly. These all speak to the ability of the design to convey the natural and organic forms that will speak to a child’s imagination and enliven their day.