adventure+ worked with Fiona Eddleston from SMEC – Australia & New Zealand Division to develop this huge play space in the Zuccoli Aspire Estate. Located only 25 minutes from Darwin, the Estate will eventually contain over 2,300 homes for more than 6,000 Territorians. To provide affordability, the developer required smaller house lots, placing a greater emphasis on providing public spaces for the community to socialise, exercise and play.
The centrepiece of the play space is a 6 metre high tower that soars above the tree tops, visually indicating where the play space is within overall area. The highest platform provides stunning views across the estate and surrounding bushland. Also included in the space is a 25 metre Double Flyway Flying Fox.
In an interview with adventure+, Fiona Eddleston give her insights into the design of the estate and how adventure+ delivered the results the landscape architect and developer were looking for.
A+. Tell us a little about yourself and your history in landscape architecture
FE. I grew up on RAAF bases around Australia. Bases are usually co-located with wide open bushland which became my playgrounds growing up. The adventures of climbing, running, riding bikes through the bush and learning about nature with my friends kept us entertained for hours. In those days you had to be home by the time the distant streetlights came on. So my passion for people and nature was cemented from a very young age.
I studied Landscape Architecture at Canberra University and was taught by some of the great leaders in our field. The profession of Landscape Architecture is primarily about bringing people and the environment together. As professionals we add the humanity to spaces and to the journey between spaces. We do this through adding hard and soft elements, culture and understanding how the amenity of the space can contribute positively to someone’s comfort and wellbeing. This typically means adding the connection to natural environment to link to our intrinsic nature as human beings. It is a profession that fills me with passion and has sustained me throughout a 25 year career.
I started out working in Brisbane with Landscape Contractors ‘Designer Landscapes’ in the early 90’s. They taught me so much about construction it still sticks with me now so when I design a landscape I know every step it takes to build the individual infrastructure parts. I then worked for Gillespie’s Asia Pacific, a Landscape Architectural practice run by Mark Fuller, another great in our field.
Mark taught me about design, culture and creating functional design solutions that also inspired awe and beauty in landscape solutions. Mark Fuller is responsible for sending me to Darwin to run his regional practice. I am eternally grateful for that trust and turning point in my life. I worked on the Delfin/ DHA subdivisions for Gillespie’s for a few years and then transferred to Delfin as their Construction Manager for the subdivisions overseeing both Engineering and Landscape works. Developing the parks and lakes in these subdivisions meant I was able to see people playing and living their lives in the parks we had created. These are the places of childhood memories for many people in Darwin.
In the downturn of 2000 I went to Adelaide briefly with Delfin and then moved to Melbourne to be closer to family. I worked for GBLA and Ground Control before starting my own practice Fiorjo Design. My own practice focussed on playgrounds and educational spaces. In my own practice I learned a great deal about play and children’s needs including children with varied special needs. We designed and managed the construction of so many varied play spaces and studied how kids, educators and parents interacted with equipment and nature based play to fulfil socialising, physical and learning needs.
The opportunity came to return to Darwin so in 2010 I came ‘home’. I worked with Mode Design creating and constructing some of Darwin’s iconic paly environments and am now working with SMEC Australia continuing as a Landscape Architect creating environments in which people enjoy, live and learn in a natural environment.
A+. Why do you think play spaces are so important in public spaces, like in the Zuccoli Aspire Estate?
FE. Play spaces like Zuccoli Aspire Estate are vital to generate community connection, facilitate people’s need to connect with nature and to promote healthy minds and bodies. In an effort to combat affordability, the subdivision has smaller lots than some other Darwin estates, imposing greater importance on the public realm as a place to socialise, exercise and play.
A+. Can you share some of the challenges you faced in the estate and play space design and how you overcame them?
FE. The subdivision design for Stages 3, 4 and 5 of Zuccoli caters for circa 2200 dwellings once complete. The challenges the team faced master planning the project were to deliver house and land packages targeted to first home buyers that were affordable, creating diversity in housing and lifestyle choice, creating a viable commercial and retail precinct for local community to stimulate economy and creating an open space network promoting health and well-being. We overcame these issues through developing lot size choice, co-locating smaller lots next to open space, using the open space network to link people to the commercial precinct rather than through the streetscape network and developing play events around physical challenges and social engagement.
A+. Why did you choose to work with adventure+ on this project?
FE. adventure+ are quality playground designers who understand play equipment is part of the whole play space, not the total play event. Working with the whole adventure+ team has been easy and the integration of the shelters, landscaping and surrounding open space and connective paths with the equipment components has served the project and the public well. We are delighted with the results and will certainly be teaming with adventure+ on projects in the future.
A+. What is your favourite part of Zuccoli Aspire Estate play space?
FE. My favourite part of the Zuccoli Aspire Estate play space is the tower. It soars above the tree tops to visually indicate where the play space is in the large scale space and has views across the bushland. It’s also big enough for grownups to enter and to slide down the tube with their kids. In contrast to the smaller slide, the tower slide provides a challenge to children to master one task and progress to challenge themselves to go higher and faster.
A+. What important play space design tips would give to other landscape architects that are designing play spaces?
FE. To improve on play space design understand people’s desire to perform, discover, be alone, play quietly with a few friends, run with the group, create music, climb to varied heights, manage others, engage with nature, get messy, defend territory and build things. If you can achieve these needs in a whole play space environment you will create an engaging and desired place to be.