Skywalker Playground

Project Name: Skywalker Playground

Recipient: Fiona Robbe Landscape Architects

Client: Kellyville Public School

Project team:

  • Playground Advisory Group (Kellyville students)
  • Timber Creations (Timber sculpter)
  • Furnass Landscaping

Project address: 35A Windsor Road, Kellyville NSW 2155

Background

Kellyville Public School has beautiful grounds offering a variety of outdoor activities. Until recently, there was little specifically catering for imaginative play for younger children. In 2012 the Principal championed a student participatory design process for a new play area to address this shortfall.

Fiona Robbé Landscape Architects collaborated with the students, and together developed an innovative new playspace ‐the Skywalker Playground‐ which was opened in late 2015.)

The Participatory Design Process (Community Consultation)

Years 1 and 2 children undertook a research project on playground design, culminating in each child producing a design proposal for the playground. These were finely analysed by the consultants to ascertain common themes, play elements and activities, and a design brief summarised student ideas.

An overall concept plan represented as many of the student ideas as possible. The children had feedback opportunities to check that their ideas had been faithfully interpreted.

Construction documents were developed and the students assisted with measuring and taking levels across the site.

Students interviewed the successful playground contractor (along with the Principal and designers) and established the project programme. Work commenced, with weekly student inspections in hard hats and high‐viz vests. The children were involved in decisions, and minuted progress, which was communicated to the school community via a newsletter.

The opening was led by the students and the ribbon was simultaneously cut by students and the designers.

The Playground Concept

The playground design embraces our solar system, including colourful planets embedded in rubber surfacing, a 3D spinning earth and a giant sun. A black hole (black rubber) is surrounded by a meteor path (timber deck). A timber moon buggy is co‐located with a bowser allowing astronauts to “fill‐up”, and close by a rocket races by (hopscotch). A space station (cubby), communicates with the rest of the universe via speaking tubes. A Gizmo Board of knobs and wheels helps the hapless traveller to communicate with ground control. No space scene would be complete without a sandpit, with alien animal, and a series of sieves! The other end of the playground has a mini world, with roads and rivers carved out of sandstone for matchbox cars to travel along.

Inclusion

The playground design process was naturally inclusive as children were directly involved in the design and construction processes of their school environment.

The resulting design can be used by all children, including those with a disability, as the rubber surfaces ensure access to many of the play experiences.


Community of Play Approach

This playground complements the play offers across the whole school by providing children with a rich, flexible, imaginative and open‐ended play setting.

Best Practice Sustainability 

The natural playground elements represent sustainable choices as:

  • Sand is responsibly sourced from dunes which have “blown out” from their natural confines.
  • Recycled materials were selected where possible e.g. natural logs came from lopped trees from building sites.
  • Sandstone logs use very little energy in their production and delivery to site, and last a long time.
  • Timber decking, play items and sculptures have a high embodied carbon content, and do not need a lot of energy to produce.

Conclusion

This project is extraordinary as the design process was delightfully undertaken by children for children. Children are naturally good at design, and directly communicate their ideas. Our job as designers is to listen and interpret with respect, joy and sensitivity.

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