Home to relive rural past

Ready to bring Guy Homestead back to life, from left, JP Singh (owner), Smeet Girish (project manager), Kuljet Singh (director), Rukshana Kapadia (Piccolo Park Family Learning Centre manager), Matthew Davy (Dave Pearson Architects), and Riaz Daud (Piccolo Park Family Learning Centre). Times photo Marianne Kelly.

A COUNTRY-inspired rustic theme providing urban children with tactile activities, such as growing their own organic veggies, will be the aim of the operators of a new child care centre planned for the historic Guy Homestead.

The prominent Ti Rakau Drive property has been sold to business partners JP and Kuljet Singh.

They’ve signed an agreement with Riaz Daud and his family to establish Piccolo Park Family Learning Centre, using the restored homestead and new barn-like structures, which will swing in an elbow at the rear of the section.

Mr Daud and his sister Rukshana Kapadia, who will be the centre manager, operate the Piccolo Park Child Care Centre at Sylvia Park catering for 70 children.

The Singhs, with a number of child care centre developments including Piccolo under their belt, could see the concept was a good fit with potential use for the Guy Homestead property, and they were impressed with the way the Syliva Park centre was run.

JP Singh says while working on plans for Ti Rakau Drive, “we shared our plans with them [Daud family] and before we knew it they had signed up”.

Mr Daud says: “We live here – in Howick and Flat Bush – so we are local. It didn’t take us long to take to JP’s approach.”

Ms Kapadia says: “I had been thinking about that building and its suitability for children for a long time and when we got the proposal I was so excited.”

Mr Daud says the theme is country inspired, in keeping with the homestead’s farming heritage.

“We want the children to experience activity, such as planted patches and an organic veggie garden. We will have farming implements and tools from yesteryear to retain the historical link.”

The new building will be eco-friendly, naturally ventilated with glazed louvre windows and solar panels will be installed for energy.

JP Singh says: “We’re taking the children back, exposing them to agriculture and farming, but also to modern sustainable living concepts, encouraging judicious use of resources, for example careful water conservation.

“But they will also be able to make use of modern technology such as computers and iPads.

“It will be unique. Guy Homestead will be blended with an eco-friendly building. We will be respecting cultures and heritage, old and new.”

Project architect Matthew Davy says development of the child care centre involves restoration of the homestead, including a separate space for the under-twos with facilities such as sleeping accommodation and milk stations.

“We went with picking up 75 per cent of the existing building. The back lean-to which was badly burned had no structural integrity.

“We’re proposing to link the house with a new barn-like structure providing 420 square metres additional space,” says Mr Davy.

“We believe this is the best use and solution to the presence the homestead has now and in the future.

“We’re restoring it with all the historical elements, for example we’ll rebuild the chimneys making them earthquake proof.

“Internal walls will be retained but with openings in them to adapt for the building’s new use.

“We’re not trying to replicate the old with the new and don’t want to detract from the scale of the homestead.

“The two barns with an elbow link will help us to achieve the 420 sq m in a scale appropriate to the homestead.

“Yes, we’ve lost the back section and the roof and ceiling of the back two rooms.

“Apart from that the building is structurally sound. It looks worse than it is. We’ve seen a lot worse. The Abbeville Estate redevelopment [next to Auckland Airport] was.”

Mr Davy says the key challenge for the project team was the rules that prevented the sale and purchase of the homestead.

“It has been controversial for a long time and we [Dave Pearson Architects] had known about it for a long time.

“When JP phoned, I said ‘I know the site’. We had written reports for the council and warned that it was an arson hit.

“And that happened.”