Eltham North Playground

The Eltham North Playground was a quintessential community project that involved the reinstatement of a facility that played a unique role in local children’s lives for more than two decades. Our relationship to this playground and the Eltham community stretches back 25 years to when we designed and helped construct the original which was burnt down in late 2017. In collaboration with Jeavons Landscape Architects and playground builders Naturform, we set out to reinstate this iconic community facility.

The playground is apart of a recreational precinct and is an iconic landmark for the area. It has always been more than a playground. It is a community meeting place that caters for a broad age range and encourages families and social groups to connect. It offers an exciting range of play elements integrated under a roof structure with a very high level of access, inclusion and social interaction for people of all abilities.

The core idea was always to provide a large covered playground that is SunSmart and usable in all weather. The outcome is rural in nature, like an old farm shearing shed. It draws on memories of the qualities of playing in old barns. A sense of adventure, the smells, the challenge of getting up high or finding a quiet corner. The chosen design maximises passive solar design strategies, allowing the penetration of winter sun while maximising summer shading. There is an emphasis on sustainable and natural materials with the new playground substantially constructed from reclaimed, locally sourced timber.

There was a very active community involvement throughout the project that continues post construction. Consultation with the community helped capture the essential attributes of the previous playground that made it so well loved and utilised. The redesign process also provided the opportunity to review the use of the whole site and lead to the relocation of the playground to a new position. Surrounded by tall Eucalypts and next to the Diamond Creek, the play activities don’t stop at the roof edge as explorations into the surrounding bushland are encouraged.

Due to Councils restricted timeframe and limited access to funds, the building and design team had to find the most cost-effective way of constructing shelter and maximise the play opportunity housed below. The project needed to provide opportunities for expansion, staging and community engagement and the team worked with and relied on community contribution to see the project finalised. School children and their parents ran working bees while other local groups constructed ancillary areas.

The new position and reinterpretation of what made the Eltham North Adventure Playground so special has created an enhanced outcome that exceeds the brief as well as the community’s desires. The larger, more complex playground, provides more play opportunity per square metre of coverage while also having a stronger relationship to the landscape surrounds. The playground is once again, a fundamental meeting place. A place that encourages the connection of families and community groups while recognising the rights of people of all abilities to have access to public facilities.

The core idea was always to provide a large covered playground that is SunSmart and usable in all weather. The chosen design maximises passive solar design strategies, allowing the penetration of winter sun while maximising summer shading. There is an emphasis on sustainable and natural materials with the new playground substantially constructed from timber. Decking, screening and internal elements as well as large recycled beams of Blackbutt are made out of reclaimed, locally sourced timber. Along with the educational nature of experiencing the natural environment through the relationship of built shelter and changing seasons and climates, the water catchment off the roof becomes an educational element as the large gutter that runs the length of the roof connects to the water tank that is incorporated into the play facility.

  • Landscape Architect:
    Jeavons
  • Builder:
    Naturform
  • Photographer:
    Tess Kelly
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