Wilderness Playground


Recipient: Delve Consulting

Client: Indooroopilly Montessori Children's House

Project team: 

  • Stephen Chester Landscapes - Landscape Contractor
  • Consulting Coordination - Safety Certifier
  • David Sandison - Photography

Project address: 68 Kate Street, Indooroopilly QLD 4068

Given a 45 degree embankment, the challenge was to develop an inclusive playground. A great opportunity to create many and varied places for all children of all abilities to challenge themselves. 

The completed playground nearly doubles the existing outdoor play area at the Indooroopilly Montessori Children’s House (IMCH). Importantly it contrasts the existing playground through the inclusion of uneven surfaces, natural climbing areas, trails, gardens, slopes, steps, small scaled spaces and all things ‘risky play’! The level lower terrace provides easily accessible experiential play elements such as a creek bed, muddy puddles and art walls. The children are stimulated using natural materials such as boulders, pebbles, fallen logs, timber structures and a variety of plants that attract local birds. The middle and upper terraces are accessible via a main concrete ramp or by varied climbing and traversing routes. Upper body strength and proprioception are actively engaged within these terraces, whilst stairs and ramps provide children and educators easy access throughout the Wilderness Playground. 

The natural slope creates a ‘layered’ playground where contrasting spaces can be located in close proximity without creating tension. Spaces, scales and activities connect horizontally and vertically providing children with choices and opportunities for self-directed play. Seating, quiet play, gathering and vantage points are strategically located and compliment other active nodes. The design is open-ended and non prescriptive making the children the focus. 

Extensive, inclusive community engagement was conducted at the onset of the project with the children being the main source of inspiration and consultation. The initial sustainability strategy fully engaged the community ensuring ownership of the proposed design. A series of workshops, surveys and questionnaires presented to the children, and educators created a complete feedback loop, with the final design presented for comments. Concept plans displayed within the centre throughout the project, including construction, “meant that children could look at the plan and relate to what the diggers were working on”. 

Design inspiration was the re-tasking of the embankment utilising and enhancing the natural slope, creating an exemplar of nature-based play and providing children with a place they could connect with nature. Sustainable design approaches maintained the slope and mitigated erosion through planting. 

The design activates every viable area along the embankment. Climbing structure post timbers were sourced from a local mill. There is evidence throughout of reused materials with timber rounds becoming stepping pads, repositioned flat surfaced stones are the retaining steps/seats as are strategically placed fallen logs. Other recycling of existing site materials included drainage pebbles along the main pathway, dead trees as garden edges and mulch relocated into adjacent gardens. The gardens existing irrigation system was reestablished, upgraded and connected to an under utilized rainwater tank. Priority given to irrigating the new garden areas and provide the new play pump and creek bed with water. 

Local plant species will provide quality natural shade and create a cool, comfortable and inviting play space. Thickets of bamboo and palms provide the children with material for experimenting and building.