Fundamentally this project is about connection; connection to environment; connection to ‘country’ and connection to community – making a place for all.
Gosford, one of the earliest European settlements in New South Wales and now a thriving town, is undergoing significant revitalization, led by a number of State government initiatives including Gosford Leagues Club Park – an inauspicious cluster of underutilised playing fields on reclaimed waterfront separated from Brisbane Waters by Dane Drive, an arterial road.
Our brief was to provide a town green, a regional playground, conserve existing phoenix palms, extend Baker Street to provide frontage for new adjacent development, and lastly, provide a new and ‘community node’.
Discovery of the early shoreline on historical surveys, located deep within the park, long buried, strongly influenced the park narrative and its overall physical form. We saw an opportunity to not simply interpret, but also restore this lost shoreline in a kind of archaeological dig, revealing the bay floor as an estuarine wild play area, a ‘Tidal Terrace’– a place to play, to learn, to connect to nature.
Our approach was to codesign the project with the three key stakeholders: our client Hunter Central Coast Development Corporation (HCCDC), Central Coast Council (CCC) and Darkinjung Local Land Council; via a series of design workshops identifying key attributes, opportunities and options for site development.
Working with the Darkinjung, we learnt the site was once an important camp, a place of trade and cultural exchange, a meeting ground between the Darkinjung clans and with adjoining nations such as the Gadigal, Gomeroi and Wiradjuri.
The Darkinjung oral history recounts this place as an important point of first contact between the Darkinjung and Europeans – when charting the Brisbane Waters in the first months of settlement, Phillip’s exploration party found a large camp with a marina of canoes at the shoreline.
We also learnt in these workshops the importance of ‘country’, both land and sea, as resource and spiritual connection. Elder and artist Kevin Gavi Duncan shared important local rock carvings and asked if these could somehow be incorporated in the park.
The Tidal Terrace became a place to interpret these songlines and stories; the camp, first contact and carvings, in a new meeting ground for all. At its heart is a central community node, Norimbah – a dance ground defined by timber totems of both clans and nations. Mythic sea creatures in the shape of local rock carvings, formed as stone terraces, swim in on the tide, reinhabiting the recovered coastline, encircling both the Norimbah and also Phillips’ Gig, approaching from the bay. Two songlines forever intertwined.
The community is invited in; to experience and to play.
The Tidal Terrace is the focal point, however the park offers more. Play opportunities for all abilities and ages extend into adjoining spaces, the ‘Seed Pod’ play towers located atop the adjacent berm offer expansive views to the bay and active natural play. The ‘Fish Trap’, a communal rope structure invites immersive, imaginative play as it sways in space.
To the north of the Tidal Terrace is Ray Maher Field, an open lawn framed by mature Date Palms, capable of accommodating everything from kicking a ball to a major civic event.
To the east, Baker Street is extended as a pedestrian zone shared with slow moving vehicles, providing access to neighbouring buildings as well as key spaces, adjoining BBQs, picnic facilities, showers, amenities building and exercise area.
Social, Environmental, Cultural and Economical facts:
Social – “The Darkinjung people are immensely proud to have been so closely involved with this special project from the outset” working closely with Valentina and her team at the Hunter Central Coast Development Corporation, as Lead Designer, Turf Design Studio oversaw the project from concept development through to life for the community to enjoy.”
Local Artist – Kevin ‘Uncle Gavi’ Duncan’s input has been enormous in ensuring the stories of the Darkinjung’s past, present and future and connections to the land and the waters of this place have been weaved throughout this one of a kind play space.
“You have helped create a legacy here that will live on through the ages.” – Danielle Captain-Webb, Chairperson, Darkinjung LALC
Environmental: A living, breathing bushland ecosystem that complements the park’s proximity to the waterfront with a state-of-the-art dynamic waterway feature that fills and drains daily with the Brisbane Water tide. People of all ages will be able to splash around, get wet and wild and explore this natural bushland setting that will constantly change and evolve with the tidal rhythms.
The unstructured play zones tell the Aboriginal stories of the Country on which we stand, side-by-side with non-Aboriginal history, encouraging exploration and interaction with nature and highlighting the importance of the site to the people of Darkinjung.
Cultural – The analysis of Indigenous culture was understood in consultation with the Darkinjung Land Council. Their extensive knowledge of culture and history of the lands traditional custodians has filtered well into the design resolution.
The Darkinjung people have strong connections to the waterways of the Gosford region, using the bays and inlets as spaces for gathering, hunting, exploring and living. The shell midden deposits found across the bays evidence the occupation of the Darkinjung people. The significance of ceremony as an everyday ritual should not be underestimated. Smoking ceremonies, ceremonies of initiation and celebration perpetuated the spiritual and physical connection to place.
Economic – This project has realised the City’s objectives for Gosford, making a major contribution to the City’s recreational spaces. As lead consultant working in collaboration with indigenous artist Kevin ‘Uncle Gavi’ Duncan, Civille, Electrolight, WordPlay, ADWJ, SESL, Hatch RD, GML, Turpin Crawford and Darkinjung Land Council, Turf Design Studio has transformed the park, literally bringing back the park’s ecosystems, the community’s imagination and reflecting the Aboriginal culture and history of the area. Through the nearby ocean waterway, paths and stepping stones, the designers have created delightful places in the park’s landscape, connecting community and nature.” – Valentina Misevska, COO, Hunter & Central Coast Development Corporation
Project location: Gosford, NSW, Australia
Design year: 2018
Year Built: 2021