We were thrilled in 2020 to receive a Parks and Leisure Australia NSW/ACT Award of Excellence, as well as a Kidsafe National Playspace Design Award, for the Outdoor Recreation Area at Kelso Community Hub. This was an exciting and rewarding project for us, so we thought we’d take you through a bit of the background of this (now award-winning) play space!
The Outdoor Recreation Area at the Kelso Community Hub provides a venue where the local community safely and regularly interact, creating networks of relationships through play. Unique features include tree-trunk timber swings, repurposed industrial concrete culverts, polished concrete slides, large sandstone blocks and exclusive custom-made furniture.
The playspace was designed to cater to specific requests from the local community as a result of in-depth consultation. The consultation provided insight into the current use of the Hub, as well as needs and wishes for the proposed playspace. Requests from consultation were built into the playspace, including specific equipment choices (hang out space, swings, hammock, monkey bars), amenities (picnic tables, shade, gathering space, accessibility for walkers and wheelchairs), and Indigenous cultural elements (yarning circles, natural materials).
The new playspace provides the local community with a strong sense of their own identity, fostering a robust sense of community and instilling pride in who they are. The playspace creates a community heart to gather at, play in, and to hold meetings and events. The playspace is a safe place for everyone to visit, from children and young people, to mothers with babies.
Natural shade from trees was prioritized to suit the theming of the playspace. Existing trees with high quality shade provision were retained, with additional trees planted. The use of recycled cypress trunks for the pergola sourced from condemned trees from a farm in Gunnedah, provide a low embodied energy footprint compared with traditional materials.
Vandal-proof materials and design are incorporated throughout the playspace, including concrete culverts with polished concrete slides (creating both a cubby and climbing feature). Four-tonne sandstone boulders were placed in the generous sandpit for a sense of challenge and a ‘wow’ factor. Forked tree trunks create an unusual setting in the swing set and hammock areas.
The local newspaper described the playspace as “providing a vibrant, innovative and interactive area for the local community”, while the Bathurst Mayor stated that, “this new space will be great for the local community… it’s really inclusive to everyone”.
Six Months Later
One of the best side-effects of using natural materials in play spaces is that the space is constantly evolving over time! In obvious ways – like trees growing and grass getting greener – as well as more subtle ways – like timber ageing and concrete staining. We revisited Kelso Community Hub about six months after construction was completed, and the differences were already incredible.