The Pod Playground


Recipient: Taylor Cullity Lethlean

Client: ACT Government

Project address: Forest Drive, Canberra City ACT 2601

Located within the 100 forests at the National Arboretum, Canberra the Pod Playground introduces children and their families to the wonder of trees.

Using the idea of seeds as the beginning of life amongst the forest, children and their families can enter an imaginary world of fanciful scales, a play space with giant acorns floating in the sky, and enormous banksia cones nestled on the forest floor.

Framed within an immersive landscape, the playground aims to pursue wonder, imagination and enchantment. It is composed of a sequence of discovered play environments linked by a weaving and circuitous textured pathway.

Upon entry, through a sculpted vine covered pine cone, little participants are invited to enjoy the wonders of interlinked banksia cubby houses. A variety of sensory and participatory play elements invite climbing, sliding, jumping and exploring.

The main attraction for children and their families are the dramatic Acorns floating in the sky. These interlinked pods, inspire flexibility, experiential journeys and spontaneity, complimented with a range of playful opportunities to encourage multiple interactions with each other, nature, natural processes and the stories of trees. Adjacent pathways, climbing walls, tangle nets further encourage a range of ways to enjoy social interaction in a beautiful environment.

The pod playground meets stringent play standards yet offers unique, creative and diverse play experience for all children. The Playground aims to foster awe and excitement in children, encouraging repeat visitation. The play space creatively engages children with the beauty of trees, with nature and we hope, fosters a life-long connection to the Arboretum’s remarkable environment. But above all we hope the pod playground encourages quality family time and meaningful social engagement.

Be as inclusive as possible – ie supporting equality of access and provision of play opportunities for children and people of all ages.

Pod playground challenges children’s abilities, providing experiences for children of all ages and skill levels. The design recognises that play is a vital social development and educational tool for children of all ages, and is particularly important when assisting in forming relationships to its landscape, climate and surrounding context.

Aspire towards a ‘community of play’ approach across the broader settlement network

The pod playground provides a regionally based destination for Canberra families. It not only fulfils a community need for a quality nature facility but also caters for tourism families as part of a regional and international visit to Canberra.

Incorporate appropriate and inclusive community consultation process.

The Pod Playground was developed in consultation with a variety of stakeholders and communities including the Chief Ministers Office, the National Capital Authority, the Arboretum Board, the Friends of the Arboretum and importantly local communities.

Incorporate best practise sustainability approaches, including consideration of impacts of climate change on resource use and availability, materials and construction techniques, and ongoing maintenance and evaluation procedures

The pod playground facility provided many natural sensory and tactile connections to its broader Arboretum context. Every detail and material was selected to foster a connection with nature, encourage multiple ways of interacting with the environment and to ensure its ongoing longevity. The design supports the notion that each play space can be bespoke, each child can enjoy a unique experience that is locally derived and that this can be maintained into the future.