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Great results start with strong foundations; Reflections on Aurora with Spiire and Lendlease

Almost two years ago, an adventure playground opened at the entry of the Aurora Estate, large-scale residential development of 10,000 lots in Melbourne’s Epping North. We collaborated on this project with our partners at Spiire working together to deliver the Aurora entry park for our client Lendlease.

Helping to bring Spiire’s design vision to life, our involvement was the end-to-end design consultation, engineering, delivery and construction on site for key elements of the playground: a complex orange ribbon piping structure representing the aurora borealis, and a shaded shelter, along with bespoke elements such as pods and solar trees. The concept was an intriguing combination of play, shade, solar energy, lighting, and public art. The finished result looks simply outstanding and has recently been recognised by the UDIA with the 2018 Award for Excellence in Landscape Design.

Due to the varied elements and complexity of the design, our DesignExecute2 (DE2) delivery model really proved its purpose. This unique and challenging design had naturally never been built before! Therefore, DE2 was able to provide Fleetwood and our partners with an invaluable step-by-step methodology for delivering the entire project.

We’re proud that the original design vision from Spiire was honoured, and built on time and on budget. For this journal article, I spoke with our partners Matt Bradbury at Spiire and Alex Gibson who was working with Lendlease at that time to capture some of these processes. Here is an edit of our conversation:

(Left) Matthew Bradbury from Spiire and (Right) Alex Gibson with Lendlease.

Roger Joyce from Fleetwood: Hello guys, thanks for your time. Let’s start by briefly talking about the background for the Aurora Entry Park a little. Can you give me your take on the vision here and your roles?

Matt Bradbury from Spiire: My role for Aurora was working with a range of partner-suppliers to deliver the project designed originally by my colleague Matt York at Spiire. The entry park concept was born out of a design competition run by Lendlease looking for an iconic theme to act as a gateway to the new community. We wanted to build on the name Aurora with an architecturally designed playspace evoking the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) as a beacon for the local area. The playground features a rain shelter, free electric barbeque, free WI-FI, solar trees, and play equipment that glows in the dark, mimicking the lights themselves.

The main structure's piping touches the ground as a seat, combining aesthetic with a play/rest function.

Alex Gibson with Lendlease: I’ve since moved to another company, but at the time I was with Lendlease working closely with Fleetwood and Spiire, helping to manage the development of this project.

As Matt says, the whole idea around the Aurora entry park was to make a bold visionary statement with a signature piece to uplift the development and ultimately showcase the work Lendlease is doing in creating visionary spaces for the community. We wanted to do something more exciting than simple entry signage, something that might even be award-winning.

So it’s been very satisfying to see the community engaging with the playspace, but also to see Spiire’s work receiving the UDIA’s 2018 Award for Excellence in Landscape Design.

Made from smooth fibreglass in a special coating, the pod seats gather light during the day to become luminous at night.
Bespoke 'solar trees' power a phone charging hub below, manufactured and installed by Fleetwood, in conjunction with Spiire.

RJ: That’s a fantastic result for sure. Can I ask you guys about your take on how we worked together around the design process… specifically, how did Fleetwood help deliver you certainty that the end result would stay true to the original vision? Matt, if I can start with you, and then Alex – get your thoughts too.

MB: We definitely felt certain the original design vision was being honoured all the way to installation. We brought Fleetwood into the design process early on, primarily to make sure that we could be confident from the get-go whether we could actually build it! So Fleetwood’s expertise informed the fine-tuning of the design process – and that’s a major success factor. I’d say Fleetwood was instrumental in helping us deliver the pragmatic side of the Aurora park, without sacrificing the aesthetics. When you work with Fleetwood, even as the project moves into engineering, the design vision remains intact, often with some outside of the box thinking to ensure a creative solution that will also be practical on the ground.

Bespoke pods encourage interpretive play at Aurora Entry Park.

AG: From our perspective, and being involved in design discussions, it was clear to me at the time that Fleetwood and Spiire were truly partnering on the design process. Fleetwood was very hands-on here. As a one-stop-shop with a full in-house team, you can trust with Fleetwood that the process starts from design, moves to engineering, and follows through to on-site delivery and implementation.

RJ: Thanks for these insights guys. At Fleetwood, we do invest continually into our end-to-end capabilities from design collaboration through to the finished build. So turning now to the on-site delivery and construction, can you both describe that from your own perspectives on the Aurora project as you collaborated with us?

Families enjoying Aurora Entry Park just as it was intended.

MB: Sure;

What stands out most of all here is Fleetwood’s capabilities in being able to meet the challenge of the original vision. I mean you look at Aurora, the shape and the scale of the structure makes it very tricky and complex to put together. There’s challenging transport and logistics even before you start work on-site. But it all came together in a very seamless process, in fact I was amazed at how everything fit together so neatly and precisely. For me, again, it so worked well because we collaborated with Fleetwood from the genesis of the project to its completion.

In my experience, the fewer people and companies you need to handover to and work with along the way to fulfill the vision, the less that things will go wrong. Not only is the design vision less likely to be diluted, but it also ensures that everything fits together better during site delivery and construction. That comes from working with Fleetwood end-to-end, simple as that. 

AG: Yes, I can echo Matt here, and it’s about the care shown and attention to detail. When you consider everything from the immense ribbon piping structure, the cranes and concrete pouring, even down to the orange paint that had to be graffiti resistant and UV stable. We needed certainty across all of these elements on site and Fleetwood managed and delivered that. Another example is that the guys made sure parts were delivered in the correct sequencing, so items weren’t lying around on site, which contributes to best practice in structural requirements and safety.

Lit up at night with a custom light display designed and installed by Fleetwood to replicate Aurora Borealis.

RJ: Finally, in terms of giving you guys certainty on remaining within budget throughout the project at Aurora park, do you have any reflections on that?

MB: One of the advantages of working with Fleetwood early on is being able to collaborate on costing upfront – figuring out what will work, and what won’t. Nailing down what will fit within the budget, and where we might need an alternative solution. And even when some aspects of the design seem really challenging, we know Fleetwood will think outside the box to come up with a creative approach that works within the budget. So that kind of collaboration is priceless. Again, I believe it’s all about that end-to-end involvement from the beginning, and being transparent on meeting cost requirements all the way through. When your partner knows what you’re trying to achieve from day one, and you’re not handing the job over from one company to the next, it’s a lot easier to make sure your cost planning stays on track. Because there’s nothing a client likes less than a nasty budget surprise at the end of a project – isn’t that right Alex?

AG: As Matt stated, Fleetwood did a great job of providing claims for work when required which gave a good snapshot of sequencing and what was upcoming. This allowed us to ensure that costs were always foreseeable and if anything was out of place, we were always able to have a positive conversation around it.

RJ: Great observation Alex, having a strong working relationship with Lendlease and Spiire was key throughout the project and enabled us to deliver on-time and on-budget.

OK, thanks again guys, I appreciate it, that’s the perfect spot to wrap up today’s conversation.

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