Sunflower Learning Centre School Library

WORDS Lindi Brownell Meiring IMAGES Shavan Rahim

One of the oldest primary schools in Cape Town, for learners aged between five and 13, has never had its own library.

The Chris Otto Foundation Trust decided it was time for this to change and enlisted the help of, among others, architect Victoria Perry of Loudon Perry Anderson Architects to make this dream a reality.

The brief for the new Sunflower Learning Centre was to create a interactive library, a place where children would feel inspired to pick up a book and start reading. “The design of the centre was inspired by the kids actually!” says Victoria. “The idea was to create an interactive 3-dimensional space that kids could all easily relate to, providing not only book storage space, but a range of break-away areas for reading, story-telling, homework and computer time.”

Domenico House headed up the interior design, using a calm colour palette throughout the space, together with universal symbols associated with a “house”, “tree”, “sky” and “grass”. In terms of construction, the hall was updated with a new floor, light fittings and reconditioned walls and ceilings, as well as upgraded toilet facilities and a converted kitchen-cum-staff-room. “The revitalised hall space was then fitted out with a number of joinery items that structured all the different functional requirements and spatial experiences,” explains Victoria. “Wi-Fi was also installed, providing internet access to older children. The design of the centre as a whole was intended to evoke a sense of dignity, wonder, pride and inspiration in its users.”

For Victoria, it was a great collaboration between the client, architect, interior designer, builder and tradesmen (M. Sasman Builders, FX3 joiners, Power & Lighting electrical, Easigrass carpets), all of whom ensured that the design was achieved and the brief realised to its fullest potential. A number of local designers were also involved, including Brett Netherton, who designed and built the “Tree of Knowledge”, designer and joiner Nils Korupp who made tables for different age groups, Pieter Vermaak who painted the sky mural, Skinny laMinx, who provided fabric for the colourful cushions and Chair Crazy, which provided the chairs. Renowned land artist Strijdom van der Merwe has also installed a range of bright yellow sunflowers outside in the trees to celebrate the opening of the space.

“Personally, I love that the project is about so much more than a ‘designed’ space – that it will ultimately enhance the children’s education experience hugely, especially since they have never had anything like it before,” says Victoria. “It has been very rewarding as an architect to have been able to work on a design that will aid in facilitating such an important part of a child’s development.”