What is adventure?’ The project started by asking the children to state their idea of adventure on signs. Fixed permanently on site in the park, the signs announced the project to the wider community and tickled people’s imaginations. Workshops held on site explored the notion of adventure further: the children were encouraged to use the space freely and creatively through controlled risk taking and interaction with nature. Learning about construction and materials meant the children could test ideas for the playground structures, build skills through helping with the construction of some elements, and ultimately continue adding to the playground as an ongoing self-build program.
This project was about creating varied very special moments, which encourage inhabitation. The site has a wealth of very different mature trees — it is the remainder of a Victorian Arboretum. The trees made the story. The overarching theme is playing in and around trees. The building is a continuation of and addition to the landscape - in its materiality, spaces, views and function. The undulating biodiversity roof reads as an extension of the landscape, in form and materiality.
The roof caresses and responds to the adjacent trees, dipping under them, feeding them its water.
The roof overhangs on the south-western side to indicate the entrance and create a large canopy protecting outdoor play. The canopy, supported by natural tree columns, frames views and embraces the landscapes. The external timber cladding is sawn larch, contrasting the smooth touch of the internal lining.
The building is a continuation of the tree story. The main internal play space is an abstracted ‘tree room’ dominated by a large tree column from which the structure branches off. The column is oversized for the children to carve into. Light enters between beams to create a dappled effect as if being under a tree canopy.
Outside, different landscapes, scales, speeds, uses, types of inhabitation and play as well as materiality and mood are carefully arranged. The different landscapes invite the experience of different seasons or even just hours of the day.
Natural materials allow for change such as erosion and through malleability.
And then there is the experimental climbing structure. It is a dense adventure structure, which plays with the character of the trees, the dark yew, light lime, the bushes. It tells tree stories. The structure is complex, there are small scale spaces of varied materials; a wall of recycled doors allows for routes through to perpetually change and spaces to expand and contract; different degrees of secrecy oppose vantage points into the park. These spaces of different qualities create a rich experience and invite the imagination children and parents.