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Reimagining a child’s garden: Wild Play reflections with designer Louise Pearson

The WILD PLAY Garden in Centennial Park is one of the most exciting and interesting interpretive play projects that Fleetwood has been involved in. Our collaboration with landscape architects ASPECT Studios working together for The Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands Trust has set something of a standard for the industry, winning awards and accolades across Australia. That includes the Australian Timber Design Awards – Excellence in Design, Landscapes,  the NSW AILA Award of Excellence for Play Spaces, and the National AILA Award of Excellence for Play Spaces, all for 2018. (You can find our original project profile for WILD PLAY here).

Furthermore, new guidelines from the NSW Government called “Everyone Can Play” have been recently released in 2019. These feature WILD PLAY Gardens, which is again, a tremendous endorsement, especially around accessibility and inclusivity.

With a focus on bespoke design, engineering, and construction using premium quality materials, Fleetwood assisted WILD PLAY with a treehouse, a balancing eel, and a sandpit in the park’s new playground. Drawing on our detailed workflow methodology, DesignExecute2, and our commitment to exceptional client service, we were able to help bring an original vision to life for Louise Pearson, Studio Design Director with ASPECT Studios. And when I say an original vision… I really mean it! WILD PLAY is nothing short of ground-breaking.

On-site construction required careful management in a tight area. Photo Credit: ASPECT Studios

A vision combining discovery, beauty, and structure

“Children are often presented with very defined places to ‘play’, a normal play space generally is very prescriptive,” Louise Pearson explains. “For WILD PLAY, the planting used helps to define spaces, creating rooms and tunnels that provide places to hide in and space to discover.  For the concept, we embraced our imaginations and played around with how we could shape space using lush planting, character filled trees and a few feature pieces (like the) Treehouse and Eel which provide key moments along a pretty adventurous journey.

“We imagined a large treehouse springing from a rock ledge and weaving its way through a bamboo forest.  The form evokes a kind of massive insect nest so while it is an assemblage of different ‘sticks’, it also has a kind of natural order about it. The massive eel structure was inspired by the Speckled Long-finned Eels that grace Centennial Park.  It was key that timber was both beautiful and structural – to me, it’s about truth to materials.  I hope the children get that subliminally.”

Pre-assembly and fabrication in process in our Sydney workshop. Photo Credit: ASPECT Studios
Play tower and platforms pre-assembled by our carpentry teams. Photo Credit: ASPECT Studios

Honouring design intent across engineering and fabrication

As we began to collaborate on the design and discovery process, I quickly understood that Louise and the ASPECT team were really committed to natural materials, and wanted to showcase hardwood timber, something which definitely appealed to me too! We worked with their sketches and models and detailed exactly how it could be fabricated and supplied to the budget specified, providing suggestions that would reinforce the structure while maintaining the design vision. It was also critical that final drawings from the 3D modeling were independently certified for safety and compliance, so we managed that process too.

Everything was bespoke, so it needed the utmost attention to detail working with engineering to ensure every element could be built while honouring the originality of the creative design intent. As we see it at Fleetwood, if you lose that, then what’s the point?

“Mark was a great help realising the Treehouse and The Eel, he followed the design intent where I am sure others would have sought to simplify the structure.  We knew quality would be maintained as Mark shares our affection for timber! He and the Fleetwood team managed to engineer, build and certify exactly what we were after,” says Louise Pearson. “Having Fleetwood’s structural engineers talk directly to their construction crew was crucial to maintaining the vision.”

'The Treehouse' ready for our on-site crew to install. Photo Credit: ASPECT Studios

Certainty on costs, final outcomes, and an exceptional experience along the way

At Fleetwood, one of our core principles is delivering certainty to our clients and partners that final outcomes will meet or exceed expectations. We really want what we’re creating to become of great value and importance not just to partners and clients, but to all people in the community engaged with any new structure. WILD PLAY is a great example of this commitment; it’s a place that can be discovered and enjoyed again and again.

As per many of our partner relationships, we greatly enjoy collaborating with ASPECT Studios, and we’re thrilled to receive a positive endorsement from a talented industry leader and professional such as Louise Pearson.

As Louise concludes, “Having assurance around the final costs during the design development process gave all concerned confidence that we could deliver the structures as intended.

“It is rare to find a fabricator who is so helpful during the design development process.  Having an eye on costs as well as engineering and methods of fabrication gives all involved some assurance that what we dream can become reality.  That is a vital skill in this industry!”

Part of the 'treehouse' in construction in our warehouse. Photo Credit: ASPECT Studios

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