Rolling out successful playcapes over the years has been an area of focus for us and we’ve been quietly pleased with our methods, evidenced by big ups from the NZ Herald that rated 6 of our designs in the top 10 playgrounds in Auckland.
My thinking on this though has been blown apart by a recent experience.
In April I was invited to sit as a judge on the Amazing Place City Playground Competition being held by CERA for what will be New Zealand’s biggest playground in the Avon River Precinct in the ‘new’ Christchurch.
Schools were invited to submit their ideas and designs for the playground and the first round of judging was from early childhood to year 6.
Aside me on the judging panel was our long time collaborator, Tina Dyer (play expert from Park Central), an education specialist, a Council Parks and Open Spaces manager, a student from Burnside High and a PhD student doing her thesis on children’s play.
What struck me was the clarity of the kid’s ideas, their unconstrained creativity, their understanding of Maori culture and mythology, provisions for all abilities access and consideration of their parents needs.
Generally before we launch into playground design we ensure we understand the current trends and research into changes in children’s behavior, know the demographics of the kids in the area and add this to the usual background review, site and community analysis.
What we are missing out on is the presently untapped creativity when you simply ask kids what their ideas are.
A taniwha climbing apparatus with a tongue slide? A rocking hector’s dolphin? A waka flying fox? A flying toilet? Road cone tower? Pataka Kai storage hut? Hobbit caves? Margaret Mahy park? Maze with a lookout where others can watch you get lost? Adrenalin hamster wheel?
What these kids also taught me was that this is much bigger than a playground to them.
They simply need to have fun, be carefree and be acknowledged.
Their messages were we need a place to hide in case of an earthquake, we need water play, our parents need to be okay and we need to make new friends.
These messages reflect the situation – it can be dangerous, many public pools have closed, they worry about their parents and they don’t have many places to socialize with other kids.
Having a window into their magical minds was a privilege and we all owe it to them to deliver on it.
For future projects we’re certainly changing our methods.
Cameron Rennie, Landscape Architect, LA Works
LA Works was formed in 2004 by Landscape Architect Cameron Rennie and Project Manager Sally Farmer. Since then our team have designed and delivered over 400 projects for clients throughout New Zealand
Through Landscape Architecture we celebrate constructed nature by extracting the specific qualities of each space. We translate each unique situation and client brief into a responsive design that is a culmination of our expertise and our client’s vision. We are focused as much on design quality as on project delivery.
We project manage varied development projects from large-scale complex public open space to property and land development.