Project Name: Archikidz PLAY[ground]

Recipient: HASSELL

Client: Archikidz and Sydney Living Museums

Project team: 

  • HASSELL: Jon Hazelwood, Sharon Wright, David Tickle, Georgia Darling, Riley Field, Calum Nesbit, Jess Lock & Chris Kelly
  • Archikidz: Emma Rees-Raaijmakers & Vanessa Trowell
  • Collaborators: Andreasen’s Green, Design Landscapes, Imprint Acoustics, Innov8 Access, Jump Squad, Junglefy, Mirvac, Nanu, 3D Printing Studios & Sydney Rope Supplies
  • Photography: James Horan for Sydney Living Museums, Vin Rathod, HASSELL

Project address: Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney NSW 2000 (Temporary installation, 3-days, June 2015)

Archikidz PLAY[ground] – Putting play on the city agenda

Archikidz in partnership with Sydney Living Museums for Vivid 2015, transformed Hyde Park Barracks for three days into PLAY[ground], an immersive play space for kids.


‘PLAY[ground]’ was a temporary installation designed to inspire tomorrow’s thinkers and city makers to play, experiment and toy with ideas about the future form of our cities.

HASSELL worked together with Archikidz and Sydney Living Museums on their playful project, to make kids seen and heard in the city. With the help of 100 volunteers, the team turned the Hyde Park Barracks, in the heart of Sydney’s city, into a captivating destination for spontaneous and uninhibited play.

As a free, ticketed event PLAY[ground] reached capacity before the gates even opened. Six thousand people – including 4,000 children – visited the playground during the festival.

The project aimed to encourage candid conversation with kids about what they want to see and experience in the city; allowing the next generation to present their perspectives on how we can make our cities better for everyone who lives there.

Inclusive fun created through collaboration

Archikidz PLAY[ground] was a collaboration with HASSELL young designers and a diverse and dynamic team of creatives, who have a shared passion for making our city more equitable and sustainable for future generations.

After testing early plans with a group of children, HASSELL designed a collection of interactive installations to inspire different types of non-prescriptive play was created.

Involving children in the design process challenged the design team’s preconceptions of developing a consistent language or theme, and shifted the focus to the creation of highly immersive spaces for open-ended play. For example, a parkour group were engaged to help design and run play elements that were challenging and inclusive for all age groups.

A sustainable playscape to swing, climb, jump and connect

Kids were diving into multi-coloured ball pools, shimmying up ropes, and running through the maze of plants and a forest of multi-coloured ribbons made from old parachutes. Retired sailing spinnakers and timber palettes were given new life as platforms for kids to swing on, climb through, crawl under and jump off.

At the end of it all, everything was repurposed, returned or recycled – accomplishing the ultimate low cost, low impact event at the heritage-listed barracks.

Aspiring towards a community of play

The program for PLAY[ground] included over 30 free workshops. Kids, families and friends immersed themselves in green wall workshops, drew their visions for the future city, and experimented with new ways of travelling through the city with parkour lessons.

Through PLAY[ground], HASSELL and Archikidz explored what happens when a child’s vision of play is inserted into the adult world. Kids shared their thoughts about how they would make cities more liveable and fun in a prefabricated cubby house called: ‘Little House: Big ideas’. Ideas were tested throughout the design process and responses to the final outcome recorded.

These insights will be used to inspire fresh strategies for public engagement and inform future public realm projects – with ‘playability’ acknowledged as a vital ingredient to bring joy, and help people of all ages to feel more connected, included, and excited by the city they live in.