Friday, 3 October 2014

A new natural playspace in Subiaco

Subiaco Theatre Gardens Natural Playspace

The Nature Play Solutions team was pleased to see our most recent public open space project launched in early October.

The Theatre Gardens is a district park in Subiaco, bounded by Bagot, Hensman and Hamersley roads. As a district level park, it is larger in size, provides a range of amenities and attracts local residents as well as visitors from outside Subiaco. The old playground was a simple, traditional style plastic playground. The new playspace is located on the northern side of the park, closest to Bagot Road.

The Old Playground

Throughout December 2013 and January 2014, the City of Subiaco invited the community to provide feedback to determine the key elements to be included in the new playspace and inform the development of the concept design. The City’s Playspace Strategy provided the framework for the basis of community engagement in playspace planning and design in parks and public green spaces within the City. You can read about the Strategy here.

The project was tendered on a design and construct basis with the key points of the project brief calling for:

  • an environment which supports inclusion and participation;
  • choices in the types of activities that interest children of a range of ages and development stages;
  • cognitive and imaginative play opportunities as well as physical active play;
  • opportunities for people to meet and play together;
  • sensory qualities which provide interest to children, e.g. sensory trails and activities;
  • a comfortable physical environment, e.g. shade, shelter, winter, sun;
  • appropriate risks and challenges, as well a reasonable degree of safety;
  • a combination of built and natural elements, e.g. cubbies amongst vegetation, sand, logs and spatial qualities which enhance activities, e.g. partial enclosures, or a sense of elevation;
  • a balance between fast and slow; light and shade, loose materials and fixed equipment, noisy and quiet spaces, smoothness and texture, enclosed and open spaces, opportunities to move up and down;
  • cater for the parents and carers as well as children;
  • linked to a theme to provide increased opportunity for play, and to act as a link between elements of the existing creek system play area; and
  • amenities which are easy and comfortable to use.
The playspace design also needed to consider the preservation and improvement of the existing adjacent vegetation.

Design and Construction

The Nature Play Solutions design team, led by Senior Landscape Architect, Wendy Seymour collaborated with the City to develop a concept design and the City then provided the community with a number of opportunities for feedback and comment on the proposed design to ensure it met the community's needs.

Construction commenced in June 2014 and was undertaken by our in-house construction team, in collaboration with our design team. The City of Subiaco’s Parks Development team was the client representative overseeing the works. Materials from the previous play equipment were recycled where possible, such as moving and/or upgrading existing park benches and scrap metal was diverted for recycling.

Materials in either raw form or with a minimal amount of processing were used extensively throughout the playspace, including natural jarrah bush poles, rough sawn jarrah timber, granite boulders, gravel surfacing and pinebark mulch.

The Result

Important considerations within the design process were; ensuring that the playspace sits gently in the surrounding landscape, that adequate and appropriate challenge was provided for children, and that children of varying ability were provided for. Inclusivity was important and was given particular thought and attention, while ensuring as natural a space as possible. The combination of these considerations has produced a result whereby children with differing abilities can have fun and play together.

The result of this process is a playspace that incorporates natural elements and allows for imaginative and creative, reflective and challenging play opportunities. The playspace includes a tight rope walk, water and sand play trays, boulder climb, stilts, balancing beams, basket swing, cubbies and even a puppet theatre with wooden 'curtains.'

The community is showing a lot of interest in visiting the natural playspace, which was officially launched by the City of Subiaco Mayor on Wednesday October 1.

Mayor Heather Henderson said: "The new play facility is spectacular. Children are encouraged to embrace natural play, with organic elements such as water, sand and trees used in the design."

"Theatre Gardens is already a popular spot for the community and visitors to Subiaco, and with the addition of this fantastic new play area for the kids, I imagine we'll see lots of families enjoying the facilities as we head into warmer weather."

The new playspace is suitable for children to enjoy playing in a creative, challenging and stimulating natural environment.

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