In an increasingly built-up urban environment, green spaces where people are able to congregate and find respite from concrete and asphalt are an important and necessary feature.
Though built for frivolity, playgrounds are becoming a pivotal aspect of landscape design, an integral part of public spaces that accommodate multifunctional uses.
Landscape architect Sue Barnsley’s award-winning Jubilee Playground project in Glebe, Sydney, which took out the Medal for Landscape Architecture at the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) NSW 2014 Awards and the Public Space category in this year’s Intergrain Timber Vision Awards, is a great example of this principle of public engagement at work.
Crucially, Jubilee is successful in communicating a specific sense of locality, a refreshing point of difference from the traditional ‘one size fits all’ playground concept
“Previously they had the same structure in all of them, so there was no sense of place or locality, and they were all quite boring!” Sue says. “I think the way playgrounds are slowly moving is to be able to be more bespoke, to have more of an identity.”
“What is interesting is [the site’s] history – most of that site was industrial until the 1930s, and slowly was transformed into a parkland, with an extended area of land reclamation,” explains Sue, revealing that part of the project was in fact inspired by the regeneration of the land.
“We took an old carousel that was there, the last remaining, much-loved element of the old playground, and reconditioned it to become one of three spaces that form Jubilee,” says Sue.
“Underneath the big fig tree, we have a beautiful cubby, so that kids can experience the feeling of climbing into the tree. The shingles give it the look of a seedpod, but it also takes from the language of the Federation houses in Glebe, some of them still have shingles on their outhouses or verandahs.”
As Barnsley’s project demonstrates, considered landscape design which speaks directly to the identity of a neighborhood performs a fundamental function in the way we form and foster communities.
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