Rio Tinto Naturescape


Recipient: PLAN E

Client: Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority

Project team: 

  • David Smith
  • Michael Pearce
  • Tony Cook
  • Tony Buck

Project address: May Drive, Kings Park WA 6005

Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park (Naturescape) comprises over 6 hectares of a modified Australian ‘bush’ environment located in Kings Park and Botanic Garden, within one kilometre of Perth CBD that provides the community with a unique, interactive nature based experience. It is a place of unstructured activity for the whole community, in particular children, to connect with nature and appreciate the natural Western Australian environment through wonder, imagination, exploration, physical challenge and play.

Naturescape is designed to strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up children’s physical health and resilience through exploration, social interaction and imaginative play. The deliberate sense of freedom created strays from the typical confines of a traditional ‘playground’ design, allowing participation and enjoyment at a multitude of developmental and experiential levels.

Interaction with naturalistic water systems through a series of recreated streams and ponds forms a significant core experience of Naturescape. Complementing this experience, five distinctive activity areas have been created each focusing on an underlying theme from cubby building, tree climbing and storytelling to mud pie making. The activity areas are designed to suit a wide variety of interests, personalities, abilities and developmental stages. Parents and carers are actively encouraged to explore and interact with their children.

Naturescape meets strict requirements in keeping with its location. Kings Park is an A class reserve and a site of national significance. Part of the site falls within the boundaries of Sites of Significance registered under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972, and the project required the conservation of remnant native vegetation including native orchids of a high conservation value. Site specific, unique design solutions and management strategies developed with the Client ensured the project met the relevant Australian Standards and universal access codes without compromising the experience.

Extensive public consultation played a crucial part in concept development. Public submissions were called in the initial design phase while consultation was undertaken with many stakeholders including education, psychology and play specialists. Further input was obtained through research conducted by the UWA Centre for Built Environment and Health while a child development and educational psychologist and access and mobility consultant were specifically included in the design team.

While accommodating around 80,000 annual visitors, the site responsive design exhibits restraint and a light touch on the natural landscape. World class sustainability principles minimise its environmental impact, promoting best practice in conservation and resource management. Materials and construction techniques are robust and durable, and sympathetic to the natural bush setting. Conservation principles include the use of recycled timber and extensive water management initiatives. Planting showcases a striking array of native WA flora set among remnant mature trees, with plant species selected for their ability to thrive with minimal water and amid heavy visitation.

Naturescape is now recognised throughout the world as an exemplar of its type and a template for nature based play. With its centralised location, its high level of accessibility and visitation and its unique qualities, Naturescape has proved a highly valuable asset to the whole community.