UQ Educational and Sensory Playground

Project Overview

In line with the University of Queensland’s (UQ) strategy to add to the health and happiness of the wider Brisbane community, the St Lucia campus now hosts a brand new ‘all-abilities’ public playground.

Playscape Creations were engaged to collaborate with UQ and various professional and community groups to create a space that would engage and amaze its visitors. The design brief was for an educational playground; where the play is nature-based, environmentally friendly and caters for all- abilities and ages.

“The playground has been built in recognition of the knowledge that play is a core ingredient in learning and development. We hope it will be an inter-generational source of fun.” – Greg Pringle, UQ Chief Operating Officer

Design and Construction

UQ facilitated a comprehensive community consultation process, bringing together ideas from the University experts, schools, kindergartens and local parents and children.  A “design your dream playground” competition invited children from nearby schools and kindergartens to draw out their ideas of what an ideal playground looked like, and the kind of activities they could undertake.  The 170 entries received gave great insight into the communities’ needs; with several common themes and ideas incorporated into the final playspace design. This has led to an incredible sense of ownership by the local community, with children and parents recognising their unique ideas within the finished playground.

Taking into consideration the surrounding natural environment, the park design beautifully incorporates the heritage-listed pine trees, with further plantings and garden beds enhancing the overall aesthetic of the space and providing sensory opportunities for all users. Additional design considers were made throughout the concept phase, in conjunction with the UQ’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, to include embellishments that pay respect to the longstanding history of the Aboriginal community.

The central feature of the active play zone is the striking Alpha Link Tower; standing at over 6m in height it features a multitude of climbing challenges, a twin racer slide and an exhilarating tube slide – perfect for children exploring their proprioceptive and vestibular abilities and looking to build upper body and core strength.  A 40-metre zipline runs along the tennis court boundary, and several swinging options are provided; including a mega swing which promotes social inclusion and spatial awareness.

Over in the junior zone, there is a pre-school sized play unit which is perfect for younger explorers as it includes educational games such as magnets, puzzles and an activity table. Other features include a huge sandpit where kids can experience an archaeological excavation to discover ‘dinosaur bones’ or use the self-powered diggers to build their own structures. Running through the sandpit is an old-fashioned water pump, allowing children to create dams along the creek bed while developing social skills as they play cooperatively with others.

Meandering concrete pathways provide all-abilities access to the play equipment including an inclusive carousel and interactive musical instruments.  UQ’s playground also features a ‘Changing Places’ accredited toilet and bathroom facilities for ultimate user comfort. Custom hand-carved timber and misting totems can be found throughout the entire playscape which provides tactile and sensory experiences.

A stand-out feature of this playspace is the magic that can be found everywhere you look – from mathematical equations to inspiring quotes, images of some of the finest thinkers of our time and wandering pathways to explore. Sensory elements abound; from the musical instruments adding a beautiful layer of sound to the playspace, to the use of different ground surfacing materials to feel and investigate.  There is something new to discover with every visit.

Shade was a key consideration for this playspace design.  While some shade is offered by the established trees, it is not sufficient to cater for long play stays or children with disabilities.  As a result, the shade sail design has been optimised to provide the maximum amount of shade without impacting on the pathways or park thoroughfares. The integration of magical wording into the shade sail posts elevates these from a utilitarian item to an integral part of the space.

There is comfortable and shaded seating throughout the park and the open design allows carers to watch multiple children play simultaneously.  A kiosk, picnic tables and BBQ’s are also available so you can stay and play all day.

Playscape Creations worked in collaboration with Naturform to deliver this project. Construction works were located adjacent to a high trafficable area which required significant planning to ensure public safety was always maintained. Each individual play zone was completed within stages to allow for associated building works. The project was successful delivered on time and on budget.

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