Spotlight on TRACT26th May, 2016
It is often said, "Never work with children or animals” - and while there aren't many four-legged animals at Marrickville Primary School, there are certainly a whole lot of children! We spoke to Julie Lee from Tract Consultants about some of the joys and challenges of designing the winning ‘Park that Rules’ for Marrickville Primary School.
What value do you see in an initiative such as My Park Rules, for your industry but also for the broader Australian community?
My Park Rules promotes an awareness of the importance of quality green environments in the creation of enduring neighbourhoods including the health benefits these spaces bring to a community. The role of the landscape architect is to design inclusive high quality functional spaces that support the lifestyle of residents and visitors.
We understand that the kids at Marrickville had a great deal of input into the design, how did you as LA’s balance ensuring they had input but at the same time were designing to a realistic brief?
The school community is really great to work with, extremely receptive and super positive to comments. We collaborated closely on the realisation of the ideas presented by the children.
The fundamentals in their design of more shade, less paving and more challenging play areas just needed to be aligned with the functional and budget requirements of the project. This is where we helped to steer the design layout.
What were the most interesting ideas that emerged from the kids?
The kids expressed concerns surrounding the sterile nature of the existing playground and the fact that the local area is also a light industrial zone with very few connections back to nature. Their ideas centered on being able to play in a naturalistic environment, where their motor skills could be challenged, and where they had a chance for imaginative play and adventure. They wanted to engage with their natural environment, observing birds and insects and experience nature.
The children were extremely attuned to the community garden concept and enjoyed the process of engaging with and experiencing the food cycle within their own school grounds, from germinating seedlings to worm farms and composting.
What are some of the biggest challenges when dealing with such a highly trafficked space?
The design maintains access paths to classroom entries, gathering spaces for classes and the need for access for emergency vehicles such as fire trucks. Once the functional layouts were designed, it was surprising to see how much of the space could still be converted into green space.
What species did you select and what considerations were made?
We have focused on native plant species and will use locally occurring species where possible. The aim is to create a biodiverse plant community that has low water usage. In conjunction with the native plants, the school will develop bush tucker plant communities and have a sensory garden with tactile and fragrant plants.
Species that have been considered include:
Trees: Acacia floribunda, Acema smithii, Banksia integrifolia, Banksia serrate, Ceratopetalum gummifera, Elaeocarpus reticulatus, Melauleuca linarifolia , Pittosporum undulatum, Trisaniopsis laurina
Shrubs and groundcovers: Correa reflexa, Epacris Sp., Grevillea sp., Leptospermum sp., Hibertia sp, Kennedia sp., Lomandra sp. , Pennisetum sp
How will this new design benefit the children? Please outline key benefits (health, productivity etc.)
The playground will be an environment for continuing learning through play or participating in the growing and nurturing of plants.
The design encourages creative play and use of imagination in a naturalistic outdoor setting.
Children’s health and fitness will be improved through the climbing, and balancing activities the design encourages.
Spending time outdoors in the sun and shade will also have health benefits. Being outdoors in a high quality environment will improve the wellbeing of the kids.
The design will allow for exploration and independence.
The playground will have numerous areas for the kids to socialise with each other.
In addition, the design is for the whole community so children will be happy to have their families at the school as well.
How does this project compare to other major urban design and landscape projects you are involved in?
The major difference to other urban design projects that I have been involved with is that I have direct contact with the end users who have significant ownership of the design and outcomes. However, the process in collating background information, understanding the site, its neighbourhood and understanding client needs is similar.
Can you tell us a bit about your other projects, and what you are finding the most exciting about these?
We undertake many projects in the public realm including streetscapes, plazas, cycleways, large scale infrastructure projects and parks. These projects influence the everyday lives of users and what excites me is they have such a positive effect, not just environmentally but on people’s lives by contributing to the creation of communities.
We are currently working with Warringah Council on the upgrade of Dee Why Town Centre and have recently completed the documentation of Walter Gors Park which will be constructed shortly. This park will become the focus of the town centre for the community as most residents live in apartments with very little open space. The residential population also has many families with young children, so the park will become their backyard.
What is your dream job?
I am a realist so I think what I do every day as a Landscape Architect is my dream job. We have a really committed team here at Tract and we value the opportunities that we are given. I enjoy the process of working with clients, specialist consultants and contractors to achieve quality spaces. When we have really happy clients, like the school community at Marrickville, it’s the icing on the cake!
Please note: This project was also supported by Nick Zajko and Meredith Gleeson who participated in the preparation of the entry.