The White Top Centre project was a unique challenge for an inspirational client group at a point in time when the concept of ‘Care in the Community’ was beginning to evolve into built solutions to meet the inherent challenges posed. The Centre was conceived as a daycare centre for young adults with profound and multiple disabilities. The nature and extent of their handicaps demand a level of tailored care which large institutions have the habit of standardising and diluting.
The difficulties which these young adults and their carers faced were an inspirational catalyst during the development of the design and brought about a massive investment of time and creative thinking in an effort to touch their lives.
White Top is playful like many of our buildings and rejoices in its detail and setting, but it is its grounding in humanity which makes it so special and a facility which is still considered to be an exemplar in its field. That humanity is evident from the front door of the Centre where a wheelchair visitor arrives over a tactile and visually contrasting ‘rumble’ bridge beside a waterfall cascading to the floor below. The space and the sensory experience seek to underline ‘arrival’ to even the most sensory deprived visitors and to act as a signal that they have reached this special place. Such sensory triggers influenced the planning of the building, and the orientation of its main spaces to capture the sunlight in order to lift the spirits. This approach was carried through to the crafting of inventive details such as the glass waterwheels integrated with the curtain walling which spin when it rains, to animate the visitor’s experience and environment.
Photography : Keith Hunter