The Ian Potter Wild Play Childrens Garden

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  • 2018

  • Architectural Design
    Urban Design

Designed By:

  • ASPECT Studios

Commissioned By:

Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands

Designed In:

Australia

The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden provides a nature based experience where children can develop a love of nature, tools to negotiate risks and undertake inquiry and social skills to build resilience. It is a place where nature enhances curiosity and delight, while children develop socially through unstructured play.


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  • This project sought to create a highly immersive place enabling children to connect to and develop awareness of a variety of natural environments. Our challenge was to design a space that promotes creative and imaginative play with natural elements (sand, water, sticks, mud) rather than relying on pieces of equipment. Our ambition was to engage urban children leading indoor and digitally oriented lifestyles, with nature. The design process was iterative, with design options rigorously tested through preparation of sketches, physical models, digital models and drafted drawings that were reviewed multiple times against existing site conditions, especially significant tree root zones.

  • Working with the site’s established trees, our design focused on the placement of new plants to create a series of zones; The Bamboo Forest – a dense grove encompassing bespoke play structures; The Jungle - under an existing eucalypt, is thick with ferns and Fiddle-leaf figs; Prehistoric Zone - atop the huge rocky outcrop uses a variety of peculiar trees; Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub Zone - local plant communities drape over a framework of bamboo tunnels. The planting provides a rich backdrop to a series of more structured interventions and encourages a sensation of being in the ‘wild’.

  • Outdoor education shifts our attentions from whiteboards and screens to enable us to reconnect with our senses. We sought to create a landscape that enables these connections and inspire us to take a moment to understand our natural world. This newly established playspace has fast become a family favourite, drawing people repeatedly and in far greater numbers than anticipated (attracted over 250,000 visitors since November 2017). Our aim in providing opportunities like this is that they will inspire a deep love and respect of nature in children which will lead to advocacy and stewardship of natural systems in the future.

  • Located within Sydney‘s Centennial Parklands and adjacent to the Learning Centre, The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden is designed as a learning experience for kids and their carers. Its botanical adventure covers 6,500m2 with tracks and trails winding through densely planted mounds of shrubs and trees, with existing fig trees incorporated for seating and shade. Nestled in a gully and a little removed from the main path, the site feels protected and special. A small pavilion and community nursery provide the base for a program of education grounded in ecology and indigenous culture. The playspace is one of Sydney’s most densely vegetated landscapes in an urban area, where over 13,000 trees, shrubs, succulents, grasses and ground covers have been planted to mature into unique plant communities that define the different play spaces. Of the 22 tree and 57 understorey, more than half are native to Australia, most of which are endemic to Sydney. With around 100 primary schools, 100 childcare centres and 58 Out of School Hours Care centres within 15 kilometres of Centennial Parklands (many of which have limited outdoor play areas or natural features) WILD PLAY is a welcome addition to the early education landscape of Sydney.