Q&A with Nick Ison and Baz Richards from Place Design Group
Inclusive play spaces are becoming a central feature in more and more communities across Australia. We’re very pleased to say that an increasing number of our projects here at Fleetwood have design objectives linked to ensuring better inclusivity, something we’re only too happy to accommodate. One current example is the $2 million Variety Livvi’s Place Playground project at Glenfield in Sydney’s west. Currently being constructed in line with the NSW Government’s Everyone Can Play guidelines, the park is due for completion in March 2021 and we’ve been engaged by Campbelltown City Council in collaboration with Place Design Group, to deliver a custom ‘clock tower’ hero play piece.
We recently sat down with Nick Ison, Design Principal, and Baz Richards, Design Lead, at Place Design Group, to learn more about both this project and the growing trend towards inclusive play in general. Here’s some of what we talked about…
ADRIAN TRIMMER (FLEETWOOD URBAN): Thanks for your time Nick and Baz. Variety Livvi’s Place Playground is a fantastic example of ‘inclusive play’. Can you tell us a little about what’s being created and also the creative vision behind it please?
NICK ISON (PLACE DESIGN GROUP): The vision for Variety Livvi’s Place Glenfield is to be a place where everyone is welcome (regardless of ability). Our team have strived to create a place where the barriers to inclusion are removed and all visitors can enjoy diverse and exciting play experiences. Throughout the design process, careful consideration has been given to all design elements in the space (from car parking to furniture, to play equipment and surfacing). Working closely with the inclusive play team at Variety the Children’s Charity NSW/ACT and the Open Spaces Team at Campbelltown City Council, we have worked hard to ensure the entire space is designed with inclusive design principles in mind.
ADRIAN TRIMMER: Can you explain how some of those principles have applied to the new playground?
BAZ RICHARDS (PLACE DESIGN GROUP): As Nick mentioned, when we were designing the space, there was one key principle in mind – everyone should be able to participate. We’ve tried to provide experiences for as many people as possible, regardless of age or ability.
One example is the custom clock tower, it’s the centrepiece of the entire design. The key principle of the structure’s design was ensuring all children can access it. All too often, we see inclusively designed play spaces where the most exciting play structure or ‘hero piece’ is completely inaccessible – and therefore, by default, the play space becomes quite ‘exclusive’ for those who can’t participate. We wanted to do something different at Variety Livvi’s Place by creating a play space where all children can access the main event, a fully accessible, bespoke play structure. We feel this will create something very special and give the playground that unique WOW factor!
Delivering diverse play choices was another key principle for the custom clock tower. We’ve tried to create a variety of play experiences on the tower from physical to social and sensory play. Creating a safe play experience is also so critical, so the design includes a fully covered canopy to provide protection from the sun and, of course, adheres to the Australian playground safety standards.
ADRIAN TRIMMER: As designers, why are principles like these so important?
BAZ RICHARDS: As designers of public spaces we have a responsibility to make sure they’re inclusive, exciting and safe for all. Parks and public spaces are essential meeting places, where social life occurs and where everyone should feel welcome. These are places where we bond as a community and build connections. Creating these outcomes is what drives us. It’s a big responsibility for Landscape Architects but so rewarding to be able to support social cohesion in this way.
ADRIAN TRIMMER: Getting more into the specific delivery of the project, can you talk us through some of the main challenges you’ve experienced at Variety Livvi’s Place Glenfield?
NICK ISON: Providing a wide variety of play experiences on a set budget is always challenging. There are so many great ideas we wanted to implement, but of course we can’t afford everything. Ensuring accessibility is also challenging, making sure all the levels and grading work seamlessly. Responding to what the community has asked for is always at front of mind when designing a structure like this. And, of course, adhering to playground safety standards to ensure we’re keeping everyone safe, whilst maintaining appropriate levels of risk and challenge. We feel we’ve done a great job in addressing all of these with the final design.
ADRIAN TRIMMER: Fleetwood’s specific role at Variety Livvi’s Place Glenfield has been to help your team deliver the ‘clock tower’ hero play piece that Baz mentioned earlier. How have you found the process of working with us?
NICK ISON: We’re currently in the stages of final design detailing for the custom clock tower structure. Since Fleetwood was appointed to the project, the team has been very responsive and respectful in maintaining our design intent for the clock tower. We’ve been particularly impressed with your team’s knowledge of design engineering and the attention to detail that’s being brought to the project. Fleetwood’s expertise in construction will undoubtedly ensure a safe, high-quality built outcome for the clock tower.
ADRIAN TRIMMER: To keep things on track, we’ve been following our DesignExecute2™ delivery process – which is all about removing the gaps between architectural intent, design, engineering, and the finished build so we arrive at the best possible quality product on time and within budget. Would you say it’s working?
NICK ISON: The process has been very transparent and communication has been excellent. Developing a complex custom design structure is challenging enough, but when we add in playground safety constraints, the challenge becomes even greater. We’ve really enjoyed the process with Fleetwood.
ADRIAN TRIMMER: The overall vision for the park is really starting to come together conceptually. With construction set to be completed in early 2021, how are you feeling about the project?
BAZ RICHARDS: We’re incredibly excited about this space. Over the last 18 months, the design process has been a great example of collaboration between ourselves, the local community, Campbelltown City Council, Variety – the Children’s Charity NSW/ACT, together with Fleetwood on the custom clock tower. Collaboration is something we’re very passionate about. The success of this project will be attributed to the whole team involved. We’ve all strived for the best outcome and pushed each other to get there.
ADRIAN TRIMMER: What are you most looking forward to when the new playground opens?
NICK ISON: Visiting the space and watching all families come together to enjoy something really special. The most exciting part of seeing any of work come to fruition is the enjoyment it brings to everyone who utilises the space!
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