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The Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY Garden

A botanical wonderland nestled within the tree-lined avenues and rolling hills of the Centennial Parklands, the Ian Potter Children’s WILD PLAY is a counterpoint to the increasingly isolated and digital lives of children. ASPECT Studios’ design responds to research suggesting few Australian children play outdoors regularly.
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  • Client Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands
  • Location Centennial Parklands, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  • Year 2015 - 2017
The play spaces are staged to reveal themselves in an unexpected sequence that makes the 6,500-square-metre site feel almost endless. Paths interweave, disappear through tunnels and meander over mounds to create sites waiting to be discovered. The experiences scattered throughout are designed to reference features of the surrounding natural environment - like visiting a unique timber treehouse that could have been hewn by giant insects, or balancing on a timber “eel" in the shade of established figs.
The water play area takes this a step further by telling the story of Australia as Earth’s driest continent and reinforcing the importance of conserving water. An artesian water basin brings life to the landscape through waterfalls, water jets, banks of mist and curtains of steam, that surprise and delight, while teaching in a tactile way the role water plays in creating and sustaining life. The water itself is sanitised and reticulated through tanks to minimise its use, and throughout the project, best practice Water Sensitive Urban Design has informed the arrangement of spaces to benefit the microclimate and planting.
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  • TEAM ASPECT Studios, Sam Crawford Architects, Cave Urban, Design Landscapes, TSA, Erbas, Fleetwood Urban, HydroPlan, Lindsay Dynan, MGAC, PLAY DMC, Waterfeatures Australia, WT Partnership
  • AWARDS 2019 Green GOOD DESIGN Awards - Urban Planning/Landscape Architecture Award
    2018 AILA National Awards - Award of Excellence for Play Spaces
    2018 AILA NSW Awards - Award of Excellence for Play Spaces
    2018 National Parks and Leisure Award - Playspace (>$0.5m) Award
    2018 Australian Timber Design Awards - Excellence in Timber Design; Landscape
  • PHOTOGRAPHY Brett Boardman
At its core, WILD PLAY fosters in its young visitors a love of nature and the tools to negotiate risk, undertake inquiry and develop social skills. The play space illustrates how landscape architecture can inspire a deep love and respect of nature in children, leading them to understand their own role as stewards of the natural world.