Taylor Cullity Lethlean has delivered a new playground at Australia’s National Arboretum, located in Canberra, Australia.
Australia’s most awarded landscape architecture and urban design firm, Taylor Cullity Lethlean (TCL) has set a new benchmark for themed play spaces internationally with their design of Australia’s National Arboretum Playground which opened to the public on 22 June.
The National Arboretum Playground challenges the conventional idea of play environments, featuring giant acorn cubby houses floating in the sky, and enormous Banksia cones nestled on the forest floor. Inspired by the Arboretum’s 100 forests of rare and endangered trees from around the world (designed by TCL with Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects), the playground has been designed to creatively engage children with the beauty of trees and foster life-long connections to the remarkable surrounding environment.
“Using the idea of seeds as the beginning life amongst the forest, children and their families can enter a fantasy world of exaggerated scales,” says Simone Bliss, Senior Landscape Architect, TCL.
“The design recognises that play is a vital social development and educational tool for children of all ages, and is particularly important in forming relationships with the landscape, climate and surrounding context. The world amongst the giant seeds aims to stimulate spontaneity and creativity, to foster the imagination and to challenge confidence with growth.”
The acorn play area features customised play items including portholes with insects, thunder sound panels, rain and hail tubes, wind chimes, kaleidoscopes, slides, ladders, sliding poles and rope tunnels, while boulder climbing walls sit below and include a clambering net and blackboards.
A combination of Pinus macrocarpus timber battens and red cedar shingles clad a delicate steel finned frame – a clever structural solution put to TCL by Agency of Sculpture during the fabrication process.
Australia’s weird and wonderful native flora is captured by glass reinforced concrete Banksia seed pods that are situated within a sand pit where toddlers are invited to dig, bury and make noise with bamboo chimes, bongo drums and a thongophone, whilst being sheltered by melaleuca shade structures.
A large custom designed fishing net and a bird’s nest swingset provide elevated views to the broader Arboretum, strategically placed adjacent to the Central Valley, facing the Arboretum’s large sculpture entitled, ‘Wide Brown Land’ where children can feel they are at the highest point of the Arboretum.
Colours are kept to earthy autumn tones to allow a sensory experience through smell, texture, form and feel and all plant species are native except for one acorn bearing oak tree, growing to perform its role as the ‘story telling’ tree. Indigenous grasses have been grown to be harvested for basket weaving, sitting amongst flowers of red, orange, yellow and white.
The Playground entry arbour was custom designed by Big Fish, creating an arrival point from the adjacent village centre while a secondary entrance includes a custom designed animal screen where children can identify the Australian animals within a seven metre long puzzle.
The National Arborteum Canberra Playground demonstrates how a play destination can offer a truly unique and inspiring experience for children of all ages whilst meeting stringent safety standards.
Design: Taylor Cullity Lethlean
Photography: Gemma Fennell and Brett Boardman