Harbour Early Learning

SJB and Danielle Brustman Studio and Supercontext

The guiding muse behind the interior design is the natural beauty of Sydney Harbour, which can be viewed from the rooftop play area and the foreshore of Vaucluse’s Parsley Bay, where the children of Harbour Early Learning venture on excursions.

The themes, colour and materials palette draws on vibrant hues and textures found in ocean life, sea life, the sky, marine and boat life. The interior play areas encourage exploration, adventure and connection to the local nature and surrounding natural resources in which the building resides. The design facilitates an integral connection between the indoor and outdoor play spaces .

Contectually, the building is set neighbouring the suburbs local public school and is orientated to the north sharing the borrowed landscape of two large Port Jackson figs of the school, which can be seen from all rooms within the building.

Initially a discussion explored a design for an early childhood learning centre that was to be innovative in design and function and reflective of the context and of community values. It was important also to acknowledge in the planning, the complexity of play and learning in the early years.

The classroom design and names were planned to reflect and acknowledge the sea, land and sky of the Birrabirragal people, a Dharug speaking group of Mo’ring, now Vaucluse New South Wales (Local Aboriginal Land Council). The aim was to build a centre that would set a new standard in early childhood education based on excellence in all areas of teaching and building a community for learning.

In the construction of the building, the belief is realised that early childhood environments should be ‘memory palaces’ (Lyndon and Moore 1994) for children, their families and for staff as they play, learn, connect and forge relationships that will be sustained over time. The aim is to provide an early learning centre to enhance children’s identities, their rights, their sense of belonging and of place that will be enriched with inspirational design.

Lyndon & Moore 1994, Chambers for a memory palace. London: MIT Press


Furniture: Brand – Dowel Jones, Daniel & Emma ( feature furniture ), Grocorp Education Furniture ( classroom furniture throughout ). Lighting: Custom Lighting, Flask – Edward Linacre, Meteorite, Mushroom Wall lights, Circular wall light – Danielle Brustman and Edward Linacre, Flower pendant – Dowel Jones, Vernor panton flowerpots – Cult. Finishes: Brand – Marmoleum flooring, pinboard, desk material supplied by Forbo. Brand – D- Tile supplied by MondoPiero, Brand Tretford Carpet suplied by Gibbon Group, Paint supplied by Dulux and Haymes, Tongue and Groove Flooring, Laminex, Bowral bricks, Autex acoustic panel, Perfoarted sheet metal, Blum all joinery hardware, Plyco – Birch Ply, Off form concrete, Zincalume, Anodized Aluminum. Fittings & Fixtures: Vola Tap fixtures, Brittex sinks, Caroma toilets.


Photography: Sean Fennessy