Eltham North Playground

Eltham North playground reinstates an iconic local facility after it was gutted by fire in 2017.
Project Name
Eltham North Playground by Gardiner Architects
Case Study Type

Eltham North VIC 3095

Photographer Details
Tess Kelly


Gardiner Architects relationship to the playground reaches back 25 years, to when they designed the original children’s play area. The facility has been a gem in the local landscape since it was originally built, and deeply saddened the community after it was ravaged by arson. 

The project was built in collaboration with Jeavons Landscape Architects and playground builders Naturform. 

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The core idea was to provide a large covered playground that is SunSmart and usable in all weather. The chosen design prioritises passive solar design strategies, allowing the penetration of winter sun while maximising summer shading.

The large spans were achieved though the use of structural steel roof sheeting. The material reduces the amount of structure required to support large roof spans, and allows extremely low roof pitches and long cantilevers.

80-90% of the timber was reclaimed, locally sourced hardwood from a dismantled boardwalk in Victoria. The majority of the timber is recycled spotted gum, with the remaining virgin timber being FSC certified blackbutt hardwood. 

The recycled spotted gum makes up most of the structural elements, along with timber screens and balustrades, seating, raised platforms and play equipment. 

The larger structural beams were made from FSC blackbutt from Central NSW. A small amount of new spotted gum was used for decked areas once the recycled supply was exhausted. 

The sheer quantity of recycled timber used not only bypassed the need for new timber, but also provided an extremely hard wearing and durable material from the qualities inherent in old growth timber. Playground facilities are typically made from less durable timbers and plastics, and involve extensive environmental impacts through the manufacturing and disposing of the products. 


The two defining exterior elements, both structurally and aesthetically, are the large structural steel roof sheeting, with deep corrugations, and the generous prevalence of raw timber. 10 cubic metres of timber was used just for the cladding and posts. Raw materials provide the agricultural feel, along with economic construction, and approachability. 

Landscaping was completed by Jeavons Landscape Architects, who managed to softly embed the project into the bushland area through the use of native planting and mulching. 


The dominant material presence under the canopy is the hardwood used for the play equipment. In playground construction, the alternative to timber is most often plastic play equipment. These plastic products would have a limited lifespan and once damaged beyond repair would be sent to landfill. 

The timber elements that make up a majority of this playground, can not only be maintained and repaired but if replacement or even demolition of the playground occurs the timber elements can be unscrewed and given another life. 

Additionally, hardwood was selected for its fire resistance in response to the arson attack on the previous playground. 

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