Wild Play Garden
Project NameIan Potter Children's Wild Play Garden, Sydney, by ASPECT studio
Photographer DetailsBrett Boardman
The Wild Play Garden is located in Centennial Park, one of Sydney’s oldest and most popular botanic gardens. The garden is not only an imaginative play space for children, but it provides the framework for developing children’s understanding of the natural environment.
Lead Designers on the project, Aspect Studios, took inspiration from fig trees and the surrounding parklands existing attributes. The goal was to create an immersive environment using natural materials and organic elements from the environment. Children are exposed to a variety of stimuli to to engage, socialise, explore and learn.
The Wild Play adventure garden itself is part of the Children’s Learning Centre at the Centennial Parklands. The success of Melbourne’s Ian Potter Children’s Garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens sparked interest for a Sydney version. The park is designed as a learning experience for kids of all abilities from 2-12, and covers 6500 square metres, roughly equivalent to a sports field. Tracks and trails wind through the densely planted parklands, twisting and turning over mounds of shrubs and trees. An artesian basin of creek beds and natural fountains provides a spot for cooling off in the water. Other activities range from a tunnel of thick bamboo to an eel shaped balancing course, a swing bridge and a climbable treehouse.
The WILD PLAY area is one of Sydney’s most densely vegetated landscapes in an urban context, with over 13,000 varieties of tree, shrubs and grasses coming together to create an extremely biodiverse habitat.
The design process went through many iterations, sketching out fundamental concepts by hand and through physical models, before honing the design on digital platforms. The design narrative was to combine the established vegetation with new vegetation, to create a journey of rich variety for participants.
Right from the projects conception, the team at ASPECT worked with Fleetwood Urban to create innovative timber solutions to the park equipment. Almost all of the structural elements are compromised of Australian hardwoods. The treehouse in the bamboo forest is made from Spotted Gum and Blackbutt, with steel tension rods pulling timber battens into the organic basket-like shape. The ‘Eel’ balance beam is constructed entirely from Grey Box, and timber decking and fencing throughout the project are also constructed from native hardwoods.
The goal was to combat an increasingly large percentage of young children having an unhealthy lack of exposure to the outdoors. Timber provided the perfect natural material to work structurally, but also to discreetly fit into the environment in a natural way. Timber also resonated perfectly with the idea of a play space, given its textural quality.