Water Play Park, Steel Park

Project Name: Water Play Park, Steel Park

Recipient: KI Studio

Client: Marrickville Council 

Project team

  • Northrop Engineers, (civil engineers)
  • Geoff Sainty (wetland input),
  • Gary Seeto (electrical engineer),
  • Waterforms International (Waterplay Hydraulics).
  • Cardno (water re-use options)
  • Simon Wood: Photography

Project address: Steel Park, Illawarra Road, Marrickville NSW 2204

Response to Criteria

Our summary responses to the AILA objectives are as below:

Be as inclusive as possible - i.e. supporting equality of access and provision of play opportunities for children and people of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, cultures and genders, as well as supporting needs of accompanying carers/guardians.

  • The spatial design allows for different groups to play, with adequate separation between the elements.
  • The water play park was designed to stimulate creative, educational play with water- for all ages, from toddler to aged 8, and for all backgrounds. Water is a neutraliser – it does not need spoken language- it is a great “leveller” amongst people and attractor for all. The play elements were designed to illustrate how water flows (in nature) and plays, to stimulate the sensors, with an interesting series of waterplay features including a 'source' feature representing the water flowing from the mountains, a 'rills' section representing water flowing in a river across plains, and an 'estuary' feature which includes a collection of jets and sprays.
  • Design with water is unique, and has the potential to reflect the ephemeral nature of water, the physical nature of water, the essential nature of water. Children like to explore the way that water falls, moves, gets trapped etc and innovative ways, movements and forms need to be created to provide intellectual and emotional inspiration for children and adults alike.

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

The site analysis ensured that the water play park fitted sensitively into the existing surroundings, which included an older more traditional climbing playground and new works proposed by Council for older children. Safe buffer distances were planned and the two play spaces complement each other. Play facilities are located close to toilet facilities, to the new car park, and adjacent other improved more traditional play facilities.

Incorporate appropriate and inclusive community consultation processes.

Council had undertaken extensive community consultation prior to our engagement, and continued this during the construction of the project. Web reviews indicate the playground’s popularity amongst the local and regional users of the playground, and the positive feedback it provided to Marrickville Council.

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

Encapsulating the Water Cycle

The Water Play Park was designed to encapsulate the total water cycle. Water for the Park comes from the roof of the DAB Sports & Community Centre and is fed into play features such as interactive fountains, sprinklers and misty spray elements before being treated onsite through water aeration and manually operated pumps and cleansing mechanisms, before being recycled. (note that the interactive, manually operated pumps designed as part of the play equipment were not installed by Council).

Sustainable water systems

“Steel Park” is within the flood zone and therefore required special attention regarding levels to comply with the floodplain requirements. Hence water was considered not only for flooding, but also in relation to controlling and cleaning stormwater prior to releasing the water back into the Cook’s River. Earthworks were balanced, water sensitive design elements introduced and a new salt marsh proposed designed.

Key water sensitive design elements included harvesting half of the adjacent Illawarra Road catchment and directing the low flows to bio-retention areas within the park; incorporating a diversion vegetated swale to the west and north of the salt marsh to avoid stormwater entering the salt marsh; and incorporating distribution drains, vegetated and rock mulch swales throughout the park.

Sustainable energy concepts also included use of solar panels incorporated into shade structures (not installed) and recycled water for toilet flushing. Runoff from the Park, car park and surrounding streets is treated through grassed swales and rain gardens before it enters the Cooks River.

Enriching Biodiversity

The Cooks River foreshore, is considered “highly significant in terms of biodiversity.”


A reconstructed saltmarsh on the banks of the Cooks River, built as part of the Waterplay Park project, does its part to help enhance water quality in the Cooks River, filtering nutrients and run-off.

The design promotes surface materials that reflect the local geology and plant materials to add richness to the Cooks River’s local biodiversity.

A “bush tucker trail” was also incorporated to display local Indigenous bush foods, and was developed in collaboration with local Aboriginal people. Prior to European settlement the local area was inhabited by the Gadigal Clan of the Eora Nation and was the food source and core habitat for their social gatherings.

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