Located in Canberra, The National Arboretum is a 250-hectre facility which is the host of 100 forests of rare, endangered trees from around the world. This legacy project with important environmental and conservation messaged will live beyond our lifetimes.
The opportunity to design a play space as part of the 100 forests facility offered an opportunity for designers Taylor Cullity Lethlean to creatively engage children with the beauty of trees and, foster life-long connection to this remarkable environment.
Using the idea of seeds as the beginning life amongst the forest, children and their families can enter a fantasy world of exaggerated scales. A play space with giant acorns floating in the sky, and enormous banksia cones nestled on the forest floor.
The design recognises that play is a vital social development and educational tool for children of all ages and is particularly important when it assists in forming relationships to its landscape, climate, and surrounding context. The world amongst the giant seeds aims to stimulate spontaneity and creativity, to foster the imagination and to challenge and encourage confidence with growth.
Within the arboretum sits a large copse of cork oaks. This copse was plated in 1917 at the instigation of Walter Burley Griffin and has been periodically harvested for cork ever since. The play space takes inspiration from this forest of oaks and has catapulted their acorns from their forest floor to land atop of a hill, somewhat larger. Here, they rest, taking an anthropomorphic qualities.
The toddler play area draws inspiration from our weird and wonderful native flora. Glass reinforced concrete Banksia seed pods rest within a sand pit with banksia seed ‘lips’ attached to the external forms, inviting children’s curiosity to these strange looking creatures. A large custom designed fishing net and birds nest swings provided by Kaebel Leisure, produce elevated views to the broader arboretum, strategically placed adjacent to other Central Vallery and orientation to the Arboretums large sculpture entitled, ‘wide brown land’.
The playground aims to pursue wonder, imagination, and enchantment. It was designed to encourage flexibility and spontaneity in play. The play space challenges the conventional idea of play environments and demonstrates how play destination can not only meet stringent play standards yet offer a unique play experience for all.
The pod playground at the National Arboretum in Canberra was awarded the Australian Institution of Land Architects Victoria 2013 Design Award.
Photography by Taylor Cullity Lethlean
Landscape Architect Taylor Cullity Lethlean