Thorndon Park Playground received the 2023 AILA National Award of Excellence for Play Spaces
Thorndon Park Playground is an immersive, one-of-a-kind playspace that offers a multitude of play opportunities and creates a sense of wonder, designed to be experienced and enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Inspired by the diverse and plentiful birdlife that Thorndon Park is known for, this playground features four sculptural birds, each offering a unique and engaging play experience that has been curated for discovery, inclusivity and learning.
The Heron is the largest bird on site, standing at 9.4 meters tall and consists of a large slide and a climbing net that encourages risk taking in a secure and safe setting. Meanwhile, the Wren provides a low-level climbing net, the Crane offers a swing, and the Hen has been integrated within the waterplay zone and incorporates built-in water misters that children can activate by pressing a button on the bird’s leg. The playground also includes trampolines, a carousel, musical chimes, a sky bridge, a SWISH table (table tennis table for those who are vision impaired), a wheelchair swing, log climbers, a double flying fox and a parkour/ninja warrior course.
Each play experience across the site has been designed to reflect different bird mannerisms and behaviours. Musical elements reflect bird songs, water play reflects wading and water-based habitats, the flying fox and swings are for gliding and flying, sand-based play is for foraging and digging and the sky bridge and towers are for bird watching. All the play environments across the site create accessible and themed zones with the collective objective to bring people together, to gather and engage in a social and interconnected play environment.
The goal of ‘something for everyone’ underpinned the design of this playground, with true inclusivity being a core philosophy of the project. Inclusive signage elements (AusLan and Symbol Charts), also designed by JPE Design Studio, were included in the design to further encourage more inclusive language and support the cross-pollination of different ages and abilities so children can learn from each other. As a result, the playground ensures all feel welcome and are able to enjoy the social and health benefits of this playground.
Bio-diversity has been improved across the site with the inclusion of 40 different plant species and the planting of over 100 new trees to provide important natural shading and resilience to climate change. The planting palette for the playground was inspired by different habitat types around South Australia, expressed through the use of both native and exotic species to showcase local flora and create sensory experiences with seasonal colours, smells, textures and sounds.
Through extensive consultation and engagement with Campbelltown City Council and the local community, the design for Thorndon Park builds upon this already loved and established reserve, complimenting the natural qualities of the landscape to create an unfolding journey of discovery and wonder that draws the community in.
Landscape Architecture: JPE Design Studio
Year completed: December 2022
Photo credits: David Sievers