Moar Gut, a Family Nature Resort in Großarl, Austria, was designed with sustainability at top of mind and likewise the new Child Care Centre within it. The clients design brief insisted on a space with strictly no plastic, which delighted designers IN PRETTY GOOD SHAPE who “don’t like that stuff either”. The timber-filled space is an all natural childcare centre without a hint of plastic in sight!
What they created is a 1,000m2 series of plastic-free play zones with reliance on regionally-sourced materials and labour. It is a playful and healthy environment for the young guests staying at the resort who can say goodbye to their families at the beginning of the “Parent-Free Zone” then go exploring through the farm themed space.
Designers Anna Maislinger and Michael Schwab captured the essence of childhood exploration and fun in the redesign of an existing building, with an emphasis on safety, entertainment, and education. Rather than demolish and build from the ground up, the design team salvaged the exterior and other components from the building, and removed some internal walls to create a feeling of openness and to draw additional light into the all natural childcare centre.
Natural material selection was an important aspect of the design and no stone was left unturned when selecting eco-friendly materials and design options. The diverse selection of rooms are adorned with natural materials such as wood, sheep‘s wool, cork, and linen to maintain healthy air within the spaces. Additional to the environmental and health benefits from using sustainable materials, the tactile quality of each material must surely add to the sensory experience in the childcare centre. Little signs also tell the youngsters about some of the different materials in the space, for example there is a sign next to the the climbing ropes, which are made from all-natural, strong, and fast-growing hemp. In addition to the intrinsic advantages of hemp, the team also selected the material as a way to support traditional rope-making methods in the area, choosing nearby Haanl rope factory in Vienna to complete the project.
Throughout the spaces, each targeting different age groups, the team eliminated the ubiquitous PVC floor coverings, gym mats made of foam, bouncy castles, and plastic toys in favour of sustainable options. In one space, a slide, climbing wall, and stainless steel group swing entertains, while the younger set can enjoy a room full of wooden, non-digital toys in a space surrounded by natural oiled wooden floors, walls, bookcases, and cabinets. Protective play mats were specially made from natural materials by local upholsterer in order to avoid the not so eco-friendly options on the market. In the baby’s bedroom, the space is made relaxing and soothing through the scented pine bed and wallpaper made from alpine grasses and herbs.
With a focus on allowing children to explore and evaluate limits on their own, the play area was designed around the concept of a farm, with natural play areas which took design cues from concepts of earth, air and the stables. This allows children to nurture their natural curiosity with chicken ladders, ramps, slides, caves and niches to hide and crawl through.
The designers understand plastic can have drastic effects on the health of children and have proven with this childcare centre, that “playing can function perfectly without plastic.” And so it should!
– Floor plan opened up to allow in more natural light
– Tretford carpets made from cashmere goat hair and sheeps wool
– Felt products made from merino wool
– Tiles are C2C certified
– Linoleum is from Forbo
– LED lighting used throughout
– Porcelain pendant light shades, goose feather wall lights
– Pine furniture
– Alpine grasses and herbs used as wallpaper
– Fall protection mats and covers made from coconut mats, natural rubber and linen
– Organic cotton was used to make the hanging chairs
– Recyclable stainless steel was used to make the slide
– Timber flooring is finished using natural oils
– Tactile and sensory play area
– All natural childcare centre
The favorites of the little hotel guests are the basis for the redesign of the children‘s farm: the mascot Gusti, the white rooster, his wife Henriette and the two chicks Henri and Berta. The habitat of the winged animals, structures the floor plan of around 1000 m2. The shape, material and colour of the different areas are inspired by air, earth and stables. In addition, emphasis was placed on Pikler‘s movement concepts and children‘s independence in the sense of Montessori pedagogy: “When a child is given a little leeway, he will at once shout, ’I want to do it!’ But in our schools, which have an environment adapted to children’s needs, they say, ‘Help me to do it alone.’”
IN PRETTY GOOD SHAPE is a sustainable design studio based in the Salzburg Lake District in Austria. The won the BigSEE Interior Design Award 2021 and were nominated for the Green Product Award 2021 for this project.