The nation-wide search for Australia’s best playground is over, with the the expert jury crowning the City of Melbourne’s Nature Play at Royal Park the country’s overall best public play space. Australia's Best Playground is a national initiative of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA), sponsored by Lappset Australia.
Nature Play is located adjacent to Melbourne’s new Royal Children’s Hospital, and was applauded for its responsive design – to the local heritage of place by focusing on the seven season of the Wurundjeri as well as respecting the highly valued character of Royal Park, and by encouraging patient and staff interaction.
Located adjacent to Melbourne’s new Royal Childrens Hospital on the former site of the hospital, the new Nature Play at Royal Park exemplifies Australia’s finest playspace for children of all ages and abilities. The jury were impressed with the site responsive approach, focused on the seven seasons of the Wurundjeri, as well as the much valued character of Royal Park.
Reflecting a very broad and diverse design process, the City of Melbourne’s design team and their partners have collaborated to deliver a positive, engaging, beautiful and fun experience that will evolve over time. Utilising the existing site topography and features site, the playspace offers a wide range of play and experiences adjacent to a hospital - meaning patient and staff interaction is not only possible but encouraged.
The new playspace offers meandering paths, open flexible lawn spaces, places to gather and meet, to reflect and retreat, and connection with big skies. It centres around active and imaginative play spaces built upon the new landform of hills, gullies, grasslands and creeks, connecting with the existing parkland in two distinct ways.
The grassy mound provides a backdrop to the new space creating an invitation to explore the expanses of Royal Park or just roll down the hill. It celebrates the dramatic nature of Royal Park with long views up to the grassland circle and of the contrasting view back to the city skyline. On a more intimate scale, the gully spaces are set up against the existing woodland to embed these within the vegetation fabric of the park which has encouraged play activity to extend into the unstructured spaces of the broader parkland.
Nature Play at Royal Park is designed to invite users to look deeper to witness the layers and seasonal change in the playspace. The jury applaud the approach, as it sets the standard for building appreciation, engagement and respect for the space at a city scale, and builds on the unique heritage of Royal Park, building knowledge and ensuring that future generations become active stewards of the natural environment.
Click here to view the winning submission.