A small community can achieve big things

The Gore Playcentre was at a crossroads back in 2014: it was outgrowing its current building and must find the funds to meet an increase in lease or find a new home. The Gore Toy Library and Parents Centre were facing similar issues with unsustainable lease arrangements. 

This predicament facing pre-school facilities kick started an idea that quickly became a project the town of Gore (population 10,000) could embrace and be proud of.

The concept of a joint facility – a venue that would serve all the needs of the community – was spear-headed by three women – Shelley Lithgow, Bronnie Grant and Bernadette Hunt, leading to the Gore Kids Hub Charitable Trust being formed.

From the outset the Kids Hub was to engage local businesses since the centre was to be entirely community funded. Admore Designs director, Phil Checketts was a logical choice being a local architectural designer with the credentials to project manage the joint venture. 

Site unseen
Without a site secured Phil was engaged to incorporate all three groups in one building. Without a site/layout and without any idea of budget or any style being defined, Phil set about considering what form the design should take – definitely child friendly, educational, fun and vibrant. The idea of using colour was a strong driver as this could also pick up on colours in the adjacent multisport complex.

There was a suggestion that the council may gift some land and Gore District Council eventually agreed a site for the new Kids Hub adjoining the multisport complex which accommodates the swimming pool, ice rink, hockey field and indoor stadium. Phil’s first design concept presented was approved and everyone came on board with the vision, the only surprise being the land gifted from council was on the opposite side of the complex which had its own challenges. 

An ambitious time frame to achieve Kids Hub was agreed in August 2014 with fund raising for the build moving into top gear.  An application to the Mataura Licensing Trust, celebrating its 60th year was successful to the tune of $600,000 followed by grants from the Community Trust of Southland, the Play Centre Association and Lotto. But it was the sheer hard work of Shelley, Bronnie and Bernadette who organised 25 fund raising events over 18 months that brought the Kids Hub project alive in the Gore community and surrounding districts.
Design criteria

“The brief was fairly simple”, says Phil. “I was given a basic layout of what they needed and then it was left to me to come up with the detailed particulars. The brief contained the approximate size of space that each group would need and the inter-relationship needed between the groups i.e. what could be shared and what needed to be separate. We had the function but not the form.

The Kids Hub committee were excited with Phil’s first concept which had been careful to marry a concept that was visually stimulating for kids with a building that was practical and easy to maintain. The final plans were ready to be submitted to council for building and resource consent when the Trust made a late decision to include an additional consulting room, office and meeting room – a request landed on Phil Checketts which required overnight re-working of the plans. By this time a group of local midwives had come on board along with Barnardo’s as they too required operating space within the master plan.

Says Phil: “As I reflected on my own children’s experience at the pre-school stage, and remembering how one of their favourite toys incorporated these attributes – colour, education and fun – (shapes in the slot toy box), we started designing a simple rectangular box form with a mono-pitch roof that would be cost effective given that fund raising for the project was coming from the local community. We added and subtracted from the rectangular structure by adding various shapes, holes and colours, carefully crafting a frontage that reflected this children’s play toy effect while keeping the sides and back relatively plain to keep a lid on costs. Later in the design we enlarged the building to cater for Barnardo’s and a midwives’ group that came on board. 

Eyes wide open
The design of the Kids Hub building is one of contrasts.  On arriving at the rear entrance, the building is practical and smart with clean, smooth lines of Colorsteel Endura Sandstone Grey in vertical corrugate.  The north side of the building has the wow factor with brightly coloured Titan panels paired with corrugate cladding offering an eye-opening contrast and visual stimulation for tiny visitors to this special space. Phil says his inspiration came from a child’s toy with the huge angled verandas representing wide eyes blinking open.

Construction began in March 2015; Shane Knapp Building was awarded the tender, Shane’s first major commercial construction project for his newly formed company. Shane engaged a group of sub-trades, all of them local, who had worked with him on residential projects for many years. This included Roofcraft (Gore) providing the roofing and cladding during some adverse conditions of snow under the direction of Roofcraft’s Mike Grattan. Special consideration was given to all flashing details and finishing to meet the quality safety requirements for the building’s pre-school clients.
When Shelley Lithgow sat down with another project management company at the time the initial concept for Kids Hub was hatched, she was told the trust was dreaming if it thought the time frame and budget could be achieved.

The doubters were proved wrong when Kids Hub opened on January 30, 2016 – built on time and on budget $1.8 million – entirely financed through the Southland and specifically the Gore community. A sum of $380,000 had been set aside for a public play area with matted playground equipment to accompany the Kids Hub centre.

As architect designer for Kids Hub, Phil Checketts says a simple children’s toy that brought all shapes, sizes and colours together in one box brought the community together as one to help raise funds and ensure the project was a success. It was a team approach with huge effort put in by the three women that started the process. 
The last-minute addition to Phil’s original plans has already demonstrated the wisdom of the additional space with two midwives and Barnardo’s now using the facility along with a chiropractor and a teenage sexual health consultant.

Kids Hub is a development to demonstrate what tenacity in the community, collaboration, clever design and utilisation of local businesses can bring to such a project – completely funded from the local community. 

Admore Designs 
Formed in Gore in 2006, Admore Designs’ principal, Phil Checketts has spent 30 years in architectural design and detailing around Southland and Otago.  Projects have ranged from a new museum, vet club, restaurant, childcare centre, primary and secondary school work, hair salon and beauty clinic to new homes and house alteration work.  The firm has also designed shearing sheds, commercial and industrial buildings, using its creativity, knowledge of construction techniques and clear communication to identify aspects of design that are important to clients so their ideas can be incorporated into each unique situation.
Phil is a member of ADNZ and is a Licensed Building Practitioner with a Design 2 licence. Facebook and Instagram feature some of their designs. 

Architectural Designer: Phil Checketts
Admore Designs, Gore
Builder: Shane Knapp Shane Knapp Building, Gore
Roofing & Wall Cladding Manufacturer: Marshall Industries, Invercargill
Roofing & Cladding Installer: Roofcraft Industries Ltd,