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Architecture award goes to UC designed park

Elly Mackay

25 June 2020: A cross-sector project between Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS), landscape architecture and placemaking firm Place Laboratory and a researcher from the University of Canberra has earned one of Canberra’s top architecture awards.

The Eddison Park Nature Play Space was designed using the results of research by Dr Cathy Hope from the Faculty of Arts and Design.

The play space was announced as the winner of the 2020 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) ACT Landscape Architecture Award for Play Spaces at a virtual ceremony on Thursday night.

Dr Hope was commissioned by TCCS to conduct community engagement and co-design with community members in the areas surrounding Eddison Park, and attended community events, schools, and the local farmers markets to seek input from visitors.

The engagement results showed that children want nature play experiences and in particular liked journeys,  challenges and tactile experience as part of their play. Natural topography and features were also popular.

“We wanted to incorporate the existing natural features into the play space,” Dr Hope said.

“Eddison Park actually has an island which we based a lot of the new design around.”

The community also favoured spaces that could cater to all ages – with teenagers and adults wanting to get involved.

Following the engagement process, the data directly influenced the design of the park.

Dr Hope said working on the project reinforced the importance of available nature spaces in urban areas.

“Not only can these nature spaces help kids connect with nature, but they’re aimed at all ages and give an opportunity to those surrounded by an urban environment to get back to basics,” she said.

“These types of spaces are critical in helping our communities engage to nature which is important for wellbeing.”

With a variety of different spaces within the park, the project had a focus on inter-generational and accessible play outcomes to allow children and their parents to explore the landscape together.

The benefits for children are particularly useful, with nature activity targeting many developmental outcomes.

“These spaces encourage incidental physical activity in children, but they also allow for cognitive development and creative play,” Dr Hope said.

The project, which started in late 2018, was completed in mid-2019 and also focused on the integration of recycled and upcycled materials.

Dr Hope’s community engagement work also contributed to the design and concept of the Farrer Community Nature Play Place, which won the same award.