The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden was designed to cater for children of all ages and abilities. Situated in the heart of Sydney’s Centennial Park, the garden is a haven of imagination, exploration, adventure, and fun. It’s quite unlike any other play space you’ll find in a typical urban playground because it provides a natural environment that transports children and carers to another world. The only problem you may have is that you may never want to come back!
Apart from the expected challenges of working to a very tight construction schedule on a relatively small site alongside many other tradespeople, the main issue with creating a natural environment like this is that the garden used complex timberwork that required master craftsmanship. The look and feel had to be organic and naturally textured, but also durable, sturdy and safe for many years of rough treatment from thousands of children. And because safety is always our number-one priority in these environments, strict adherence to The City of Sydney’s building codes had to be followed.
We partnered with ASPECT Studios on this project. Their vision for the design was to create an immersive environment using a simple design with natural materials. Inspired by the fig trees and parklands which surround Centennial Park, the concept for the WILD PLAY Garden was to create a space that would allow local children to explore, experiment, socialise and learn through play. The focus of our discovery sessions with ASPECT Studios was to understand the inspiration behind their concept, so we could develop and build their vision into a fully-immersive, tactile and truly sensory experience for children and local families.
The team from ASPECT Studios arrived at the Discovery sessions with their initial sketched ideas and designs. After presenting their ideas to our team from the Design Engineering Hub, we started to formulate our suggestions on materials selection, finishes and construction requirements. This is where our Design-Led Engineers really start to add value, by evolving our partner’s concepts into practical form. Working closely with the landscape architects and Centennial Parklands, we held a series of meetings to develop our 3D drawings into a finalised visual with an accurate construction budget and a full list of materials. At this stage, we were also paying careful consideration to the safety implications all our recommendations would have.
It’s in the ‘Detail’ stage of DE2 that we combine all sketches, thoughts, and knowledge gained from the previous two steps, to create a ‘whole’ design that is realistic and certified. Using our conceptual models, we developed the engineering drawings to get accurate member sizes, connections and fastening requirements. At this stage, we also finalised levels and loading information.
People often don’t realise the scale of our team at Fleetwood. In a project like this, we can build and pre-assemble many of the project components in-house. For the WILD PLAY Garden, the play tower and platforms were built and pre-assembled by our highly-skilled carpentry teams. We also assembled the complex roof structure and platforms prior to delivering to the site.
Our Onsite Construction Crews can then work with all the other teams onsite to install the play garden with minimal impact on surrounding works. Working collaboratively and in sync with all the other teams is essential, especially on a site that was as small as this. We also looked after the supply and installation of several surrounding features, including the eel structure.
Within this magical garden, children are encouraged to run, jump, play, learn and discover, as they enjoy the ‘wild side of life’. Children can get lost in the wonder of nature thanks to the seamless evolution of ASPECT Studio’s original vision into this spectacular outcome. This is exactly the purpose of DE2: to take an original idea or concept, and apply proven expertise, processes and methodology to guide the project through to an amazing real-life experience. In all projects like this, our ultimate goal is to deliver what’s best for the community while making sure we stay true to our partners’ original ideal or vision.
Pictured here is the ‘Eel’ created from an arrangement of Australian Class 1 Hardwood. The design sits nicely within the natural play space and, when viewed from above, resembles the skeletal structure of an Eel.
‘Active Play’ typically uses fixed equipment for balancing, jumping and stepping – along with other skills. It needs to provide a ‘challenge’ without presenting a ‘danger’ for the kids.
The swinging bridge leads to a little rest nook, before leading on to the challenging log with carved steps. This then leads to the beautiful ‘nest’ at the top of the play structure.
This slide was designed and custom-built by one of our partner manufacturers. We have exclusive partners who specialise in similar product builds.
In some parts of the structure, we added a protective mesh. It has been placed and chosen specially to not obstruct the view of either parent (below) or other children (in the structure). This mesh has the added benefit of the ticking of various safety requirements in line with Australian Standards.
A ‘Pulgi’ is an indigenous word that represents a structure or shade – a little bit like a tent. Here you can see the Pulgi that the children built over the top of the end of the slide.
Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust
Parks and Leisure Australia's NSW and ACT regional awards of excellence (2018) | Good Design Award for Urban Design at the 60th Good Design Australia awards (2018) | City_Brand and Landscape Award: City Play (2018) | AILA NSW Play Spaces Award of Excellence (2018)