The Problem:

The new playspace at Thorndon Park replaces an existing playspace (pictured below) that was outdated and did not facilitate engaging or contemporary play. Council engaged JPE Design Studio with the brief to deliver a unique, draw-card playspace and attraction that would deliver the following key objectives:
– Create destination play that will increase activation and visitation at Thorndon Park;
– Set a new benchmark for inclusive play;
– Respond to the unique character of the park, and create a design that is responsive to place; and
– Create a memorable and engaging play experience.

The previous playspace

The Solution:

Through close engagement with Council and the local community, our team arrived at a unique design outcome that provides a one-of-a-kind playspace and offers a varied range of play opportunities for people of all ages and abilities. Inspired by the diverse and plentiful bird life that Thorndon Park is known for, this playspace provides opportunities for creative play, inclusivity and storytelling, underpinned by the Reggio Emilia principles and offering a multitude of play environments that foster interaction, exploration, curiosity, and communication; framed as places for both children and adults to explore together.

The Play Experience:

Each of the four sculptural bird structures have been designed to offer a unique activity and experience. The Heron is the largest bird on site, standing at 9.4 meters tall and consists of a large slide and a climbing net that encourages risk taking in a secure and safe setting. Meanwhile, the Wren provides a low-level climbing net, the Crane offers a swing, and the Hen has been integrated within the waterplay zone and incorporates built-in water misters that children can activate by pressing a button on the bird’s leg. The playground also includes trampolines, a carousel, musical chimes, a sky bridge, a SWISH table (table tennis table for those who are vision impaired), sand-play, a wheelchair swing, log climbers, a double flying fox and a parkour/ninja warrior course.

Each play experience across the site has been designed to reflect different bird mannerisms and behaviours. Musical elements reflect bird songs, water play reflects wading and water-based habitats, the flying fox and swings symbolise gliding and flying, sand-based play emulates foraging and digging and the sky bridge and towers are for bird watching.

Something For Everyone:

All the play environments across the site create accessible and themed zones with the collective objective to bring people together, to gather and engage in a social and interconnected play environment. The goal of ‘something for everyone’ underpinned the design of this playground to ensure all felt welcome and could enjoy the social and health benefits of this playground. This was embedded through the following:

– The addition of inclusive signage elements such as AusLan, Braille and Symbol Charts (designed by JPE Design Studio) which encourages more inclusive language and support the cross-pollination of different ages and abilities so children can learn from each other.
– A fully DDA compliant site, which was a challenge to achieve due to the steep sloping nature of the site.
– Wider and more accessible footpaths that allow for easy access across the site for people of all abilities and ages.
– Wheelchair accessible features including a carousel, swing set and play areas located at heights that are easy to access and transition to from a wheelchair.

Sustainability & Bio-diversity:

Bio-diversity has been improved across the site with the inclusion of 40 different plant species and the planting of over 100 new trees to provide important natural shading and resilience to climate change. The planting palette for the playground was inspired by different habitat types around South Australia, expressed through the use of both native and exotic species to showcase local flora and create sensory experiences with seasonal colours, smells, textures and sounds.

Healthy & Stronger Communities:

The development of this playspace provides a key community gathering space to help foster physical health, mental health and community connections. The following benefits have emerged from the playspace:
– Strongly support people gathering and socialising outdoors which is important for mental wellbeing, which has been of particular importance since the social isolation and mental fatigue as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
– Increased youth engagement in outdoor passive and active recreation, which emerged from working closely with Council’s Youth Advisory Committee.
– Increased visitation at Thorndon Park which has positively influenced activation and increased engagement in local events.

Architecture offices involved in the design:

– Design Firm: JPE Design Studio
– Builder: LCS Landscapes
– Sculptural Play Fabricator: Exhibition Studios
– DDA Consultant: Able Access Design
– Civil & Structural Engineering: CPR Engineering
– Services & Hydraulic Engineering: Trinamic Consultants
– Cost Consultant: Chris Sale Consulting

Location: Hamilton Terrace, Paradise SA 5075

Design year: November 2019

Year Completed: December 2022


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