The new childcare centre in St. Thomas in Ontario, designed by the architect, Curran Gacesa Slote Architects (CGS Architects), utilizes cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glue-laminated timber (GLT), enhancing its structural integrity and esthetic appeal.
The expansive facility offers 90 childcare spaces to support the rapid growth of the community. Situated just behind the historic main street, it replaces a previously prominent parking area, facing a newly developed civic parkette adjacent to the library and town hall.
The locally sourced CLT, along with glulam columns and beams, create an open, spacious interior with warm wooden elements throughout most of the rooms—a departure from conventional painted drywall. Freestanding wood columns are retained and visible wherever possible, adding richness and spatial texture.
The centre boasts a wedge-shaped structure, featuring a lengthy sloping metal roof with eaves at the street level to offer shade. It rises to towering ceilings over the classrooms. The roof is punctuated by several clerestories, which break down the building’s scale and introduce natural light into the spacious central corridor. The entrance features a low canopy extending right up to the curb, providing sheltered drop-off and a warm wood deck. A clerestory defines the front door and floods the lobby with natural light.
The roof extends beyond the southern wall, creating a covered stroller porch. This area incorporates dynamic and uniquely designed ‘swiss cheese’ windows that add playfulness to the building, double as outdoor seating, and serving as distinctive identity elements. The porch also allows to keep strollers outside, simplifying cleaning and organization while offering weather protection.
The facade combines tactile pre-finished wood siding at child height with cost-effective corrugated metal siding above, paying homage to the region’s agricultural roots. Varied windows, window bays, and siding colors enliven the simple exterior. The building features generous windows, providing children with constant and diverse views of the surrounding community and landscape.
Classrooms incorporate friendly window bay seating with display plinths and ‘racks’ for showcasing student art and teaching materials, while built-in exterior benches wrap around them. Acoustic panels adorn the classroom walls to enhance sound absorption. Moreover, direct access to extensive covered outdoor play porches is available for inclement weather.
A primary emphasis in the design is to integrate the building into the children’s learning experience, encouraging them to touch, move, listen, explore, and observe within a vibrant, inviting, and dynamic environment.