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Murray Robertson’s modern and neutral approach to the Te Aro Reading Recovery Centre

08 Jan 2020

When approaching the build and colour selection for the Te Aro School Reading Recovery Centre, Murray Robertson of Robertson Architecture Design aimed to create a space to foster learning without distraction. The build was a Ministry of Education Innovation Project, a programme which seeks to find better methods to provide schools with bespoke small buildings to further their ability to cater to the needs of all students.

The Reading Recovery Centre at Te Aro School is a base for teaching reading recovery throughout the Wellington Region. Reading Recovery New Zealand is a national organisation that aims to prevent literacy difficulties at an early stage before they begin to affect a child's educational progress.

In order to allow for quick construction, Murray knew he had to keep things simple. “The design makes a feature of out of this simplicity, with the colour scheme playing a vital role in elevating the project,” he says. He worked with Spanbuild Projects to utilise their innovative prefabricated construction technology. His sleek, modern design worked perfectly with the construction method, with the floor, walls and roof being erected in just one day.

After the build was complete, it was time to create a colour scheme that truly fostered learning – something Murray was extremely thoughtful about. He settled on a neutral palette of Resene colours, wanting the building to have a quiet presence on the campus. The natural environment was taken into consideration, with lush trees and a raingarden providing a breath-taking backdrop.

“While the centre is hosted by the school rather than being part of it. It is instead a regional educational facility. For this reason, we wanted the building to have a quiet presence on the campus. The second was the natural environment that frames the building, from the trees behind to the raingarden at its base. Choosing a neutral palette emphasises this backdrop rather than competes with it,” says Murray.

The exterior of the Te Aro School Reading Recovery Centre works with the natural surroundings and is a perfectly quiet and unassuming building. The fascia, posts and corner coverboards are painted Resene Ironsand, Resene Double Gravel was used on the deck and stair treads, Resene Truffle on the stair risers, cladding battens, door and window coverboard and baseboards and Resene Double Merino on the fibre cement cladding.

A study in contrast, Resene Double Merino on the fibre cement cladding with dark Resene Ironsand on the fascia, coverboards and posts strongly define the building while the overall look is softened by Resene Truffle on the window coverboards and cladding battens.

Inside, the facility contains a seminar room where teachers can observe students being taught reading recovery techniques. There is also a teaching room for the students and their tutors, a waiting area and office space for staff. This meant that the spaces needed to be low stimulus to allow students with unique needs a space for comfortable, low-stress learning. Window frames, ceiling battens, skirtings and architraves are painted in Resene Truffle add subtle interest to plasterboard walls and ceilings in clean and simple Resene Merino while an accent wall in Resene Half Grey Friars gives definition to the entrance wall.

“Research has found that distracting environments can increase the cognitive load on learners. Creating a calm, quiet in the colour sense, low stimulus zone was especially appropriate for a Reading Recovery Centre where students are in an unusual learning environment and the teachers observing the learning are in another room on the other side of one-way glass.”

With the centre needing to suit both students and observers who could watch the teachers through one-sided glass, Murray opted for neutrals all around. The main walls and ceiling are in Resene Merino while the ceiling battens, skirtings and architraves are painted in Resene Truffle. The entryway is framed by an accent wall in Resene Half Grey Friars.

With this calming neutral palette of colours and simple contemporary design, Murray helped create the perfect space for young minds to meet and grow.

The fibreboard walls and ceiling are painted Resene Merino with framed sections accented in accent wall in Resene Half Grey Friars while the ceiling battens, skirtings, trims and architraves contrast subtly in Resene Truffle.

designer:Murray Robertson, Robertson Architecture Design

images Paul McCredie