Queenstown Bay Playground
One hundred and fifty years ago the councillors, of the then small gold mining town of Queenstown, had the foresight and determination to reserve the large headland adjacent to the township as a public garden. In 2016 the Queenstown Lakes District Council decided the most fitting way to commemorate this major anniversary was to create a children’s playspace, to continue to invest in the township’s future.

The Queenstown Bay Playground project is both a link and a destination, occupying a high-profile location between the central township and the popular Queenstown Gardens. It provides a destination play space that can be enjoyed by children and adults from all over the district and the world. This project was about creating an innovative family-friendly environment that has been carefully integrated to enhance the natural landscape and provide a range of natural play opportunities and experiences for all ages and abilities.

The layout of the playspace is based on an iconic tree form with autumn colours, playing on the importance of the diverse planting of tree species and the history of the Gardens. The playspace has added a valuable asset to the community and provides a strong landscape and urban connection, which not only recognises but enhances the stunning natural setting of

Queenstown, creating a place where people can meet, congregate and enjoy the town, as well as a focal point for visiting families.

The original brief was for the development of a destination children’s playspace, this would replace the existing 24+ year old non-compliant small play area that was separated from the Gardens by Horne Creek. The site sits on the edge of Lake Wakitipu, along Queenstown’s popular waterfront. The pedestrianised Marine Parade runs alongside the playspace, which connects the CBD to the Queenstown Gardens, and supports over 1 million visitors each year.

The design response was to bridge both sides of the Horne Creek providing stronger links and working carefully with existing trees and celebrating their presence. In beginning the design process our team met with primary school children and had design workshops with representatives of the Secondary School students. We then worked in a collaborative process with playground specialist Tina Dyer at Park Central to ensure the layout and equipment chosen catered for a full range of ages and abilities, as well as providing a safe and inclusive playspace. Using a play specialist throughout the design process allowed for more complex play elements to be included, such as the timber and rock balance boards that weave along the creek edge and up the slope.

Care was taken to integrate natural play into the destination playspace, using the natural topography, mature trees, and utilising views, without being too overbearing on the environment. The central spine pathway through the playspace represents the trunk of a fallen tree that joins both sides of Horne Creek together through play, creating different zones between the ‘branches’. The pathway also creates an alternative playful route from the CBD to the Queenstown Gardens. Incorporating existing features such as the extremely popular rope swing over Horne Creek, and the fallen willow tree on the lake edge, provided the opportunity to extend play into the surrounding landscape. A play tower provides an elevated view of the playspace and scenery beyond, with play binoculars to encourage interaction with the surrounding landscape.

Riparian planting along Horne Creek not only provides bank stabilisation and helps to reduce stormwater flows, but also creates a natural buffer between the play space and the creek, whilst contributing to the overall ecology of the stream. Locally sourced native plants were selected to suit the unique climate of Queenstown, and local schist rocks were used within the landscape with large schist boulders brought in to provide a range of additional seating and natural play opportunities.

The layout of the play equipment and pathways allows children to progress through the playspace, creating a journey of play and discovery where any number of children can play together. Social interaction is critical for a successful playspace, equipment such as talk tubes, climbing nets and seesaws encourage children to interact.

Equipment that is specifically developed for accessible use has been considered right throughout the design of this project. The level play surface in the lower section of the playspace provides a range of play opportunities for all children, with easy wheelchair access to a range of play elements, activities, and skill levels.

Council community services general manager Dr Thunes Cloete says the play space “sits beautifully within our unique natural environment with features such as climbing rocks, the use of wooden materials, riparian planting along the creek, extensive landscaping, and organic shapes throughout, whilst retaining shade and structure through the existing trees”.

Project location: 28 Marine Parade, Queenstown, New Zealand, 9300 Design year: 2017

Year Built: 2018

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