Runner up - Fawood Children's Centre, London, England

The bright and colourful Fawood Children’s Centre was built to replace a nursery school demolished as part of the regeneration of a run-down estate.

Residents of Stonebridge had long been concerned by the poor image of their estate, where a high number of children were living in workless households. After extensive negotiations, residents voted for complete demolition and rebuilding of the estate, including the local nursery school.

Work on Fawood began in 2001 with discussions between the architect, residents, parents, children and nursery staff. The nursery's headteacher had recently returned from a visit to pre-school and infant-toddler centres in Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, which inspired her to put forward ideas for imaginative open spaces.

After ten months and a £2.3 million budget, the building was completed with more outside learning space than inside. Outdoors there are trees and space to grow flowers and vegetables. It also has a purpose-built stage, space for reading and computer work in a Mongolian-style tent and boasts the largest and deepest sandpit in the borough. Ongoing regeneration of the estate also means that from 2007 it will no longer be surrounded by high rise blocks, but by a public park with play spaces.

Alan Lai, architect, said: “The centre enables working or studying parents, living in a generally low-income area, to be confident that their children are not only in good hands, but have an opportunity to maximise their potential.

“It is also available for training sessions, including an NVQ in childcare, for local meetings and is becoming a central hub for services for children under the age of five and their families in the area. “Successful partnership between the architect, client, local education authority and the headteacher has been key for this building. The community has taken Fawood Children’s Centre to its heart.”

Parent Ines Dieridi said: “It’s a very child-friendly building and the security is great. Its like a theme park and gives the children plenty of opportunity to get lots of exercise.” And Marlene Williams, whose three-year-old son Nicholas attends the centre added: “His health is much better and he’s not catching colds.”

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