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Pinehurst School Junior Playspace

The new junior playspace at Pinehurst Primary School in Auckland, New Zealand is a blend of traditional and modern play elements that inspire excitement, curiosity, and sense of adventure. Prior to construction, the space was characterised by three main features – a traditional modular playground with slides and climbing equipment, a recently added butterfly garden, and a number of existing trees set on large patchy lawn areas.Pinehurst School felt the space was unimaginative, uninspiring and ill-suited to the needs of the Year 1 to 4 students. Furthermore, the School struggled with the grass surfacing getting muddy. As a consequence, they had to fence off areas of their playground during winter.

Creo was brought in to find a solution for the busy school. After engaging with the School and conducting a thorough assessment of the site, Creo presented a design which focused on achieving five key outcomes. The expansion of play and learning opportunities, the creation of a cohesive space from varied spaces, the reduction of hazards and maintenance, the optimization of utility, and the creation of a welcoming environment.

Extending play and learningEarly in discussions it was clear that Pinehurst School were looking to go beyond the traditional school playground with their design. They wanted to push boundaries by extending the range of play types on offer and the learning opportunities afforded within the space. Also high on their agenda was the provision of space for imaginative and open-ended play. Especially the inclusion of natural elements to provide further learning and play opportunities.Creo’s design extended play and learning opportunities through the creation of various distinct spaces and play structures.

Wooden decks built around trees provide opportunities for seating, theatre, and open-ended play. A covered turf area provides a sheltered outdoor learning environment. A wet pour rubber circle surrounded by native plantings provides a secret circle where children can create their own imaginative games. Tunnels and steppers, pallet cars, tepees, mazes, surface changes, patterns and colours all add play value to the space. The addition of sensory play was achieved through the installation of a sensory wall with various sound, touch, sight elements.

Creating overall cohesion out of varied spacesCreating a cohesive space out of so many different spaces and elements was a major challenge of this project. With so many new elements being added to the existing modular playground, butterfly garden, and sandpit, it was important to ensure each item tied into the space and found connection with the other elements. To achieve the finished cohesive playspace, Creo took special care to choose a palette of colour and materials that would work together. The specific arrangement of the site was also critical to ensuring the activation of different spaces and views.

A nature path meanders past the tepees, through the secret circle, and over the log steppers to create a link between these natural elements. Excitement points along the way encourages nature play.

Reducing hazards and maintenanceAs with many school playgrounds, the existing playground at Pinehurst School had ongoing maintenance issues.Shaded by beautiful mature trees, the space had problems with inhibited grass and plant growth and the soil was either muddy or cracked at different times of the year. Furthermore, the well-established trees had exposed tree roots in many places which presented a hazard. Creo addressed the mud issues by introducing artificial turf under the trees for a more robust and adventurous play zone that requires minimal maintenance. This to allows for all weather use, under the beautiful mature trees.

The areas closer to the playground equipment were designed for high-intensity play. Here turf and rubber surfacing provided the hardwearing safety support for all the leaps and bounds of the children. Where tree roots were exposed, the use of an innovative set rubber mulch gave a natural appearance while providing permeability and protection of tree and the students.

Finally, reflective sensory posts were installed to double as garden protection.Optimising utility across the spaceA lack of accessibility was identified as a problem in the existing space. It was critical to the success of the space that all areas could and would be utilised by the students. To overcome this, clear accessways were added with concrete paths between space. This provides direct routes and helps to define each distinctive space.

By spreading different play options across the site, the design encourages full site use.Waterproof shade sails over a portion of the playspace provides an excellent all-weather play and teaching area that is well utilised by the staff and students.

Making the space welcomingPinehurst School wanted to create a play area that was bright, bold, and welcoming. The design achieved this through its choice and placement of furniture, colours, and play items. In one garden, large coloured pencils protrude from the ground creating an intriguing, yet suitable play feature. Ground painted patterns continue the colour palette and double as play features. For example, a ground maze located on an asphalt court invites visitors to engage with the space. Additional seating and hang out spaces were created with steppers, slab benches and decks under the trees. These areas provide places of respite and observation.

Combining established and new features, the Pinehurst School playground now stokes excitement, curiosity, and adventure. It is a canvas where play, learning, imagination, and creativity meet daily.Sian Coxon, the principal of Pinehurst School, is thrilled with the number of positive outcomes and wholly functional space – one ideal for year-round use. Pinehurst School has invested in a landscape that will help shape the bodies and minds of its students for generations to come.

Name of the project: Pinehurst School Junior Playspace
Project location: 75 Bush Road, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand
Design year: 2019
Year Built: 2019

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