Inspired by a Banjo Paterson poem, the new Eaglehawk playspace in Bendigo features custom play structures, and thematically-designed elements from Street Furniture Australia.
Image 1 Bendigo Aerial
Eaglehawk’s $1.3M playspace is inspired by the Banjo Paterson poem Mulga Bill’s Bicycle and features a series of adventure zones for children to test their skills.
The eaglehawk-shaped playground, built beside Lake Neangar, is designed by City of Greater Bendigo’s landscape architect Gary Lantzsch. The space explores storytelling through landscape architecture, he tells StreetChat.
Paterson’s poem begins, “Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze”; and Lantzsch’s playground dramatises the homegrown hero’s misadventures with custom play equipment, artwork and activities. It is also an opportunity to encourage children to enjoy reading and associate it with play.
The designer received permission to use the 1896 poem and iconic illustrations by Kilmeny and Deborah Niland from the 1973 edition throughout the playground.
The park begins at the junior end through butterfly-decorated gates called Where Angels Play, a play area that commemorates the life of baby Zayden Veal-Whitting. Butterflies feature prominently in this area as a symbol of hopeful renewal and transformation.
Young children can sit in a storyteller’s chair carved by a local artist from an old ironbark stump – a reference from the Mulga Bill story. They can also hear the story of the runaway bicycle from a giant talking book, visit Bill’s cubby, crawl through a “kid’s only” way out, and step through his fragrant garden.
Three giant butterfly shelters shade a custom-designed table featuring the image of an eaglehawk, supplied by Street Furniture Australia, with matching colourful Cafe Stools. The designer has incorporated the slots of the furniture into the custom tables, tying them together as a suite.
Throughout the park, nine custom tables are set with 80 Cafe Stools in eight powdercoat colours: Safety Yellow, Sensation Orange, Bondi Blue, Telemagenta Pink, Lycra Strip Green, Dark Violet, Lobster Red and Pearl White, which reflect the colours of the 1973 edition illustrations.
Two Arqua Drinking Fountains in Bondi Blue were also installed in the playspace; one of which is a specially tailored child-size fountain, place in the Where Angels Play area.
“It was so important to get the size of the fountain right for children. Just watching how they interact with the fountain, especially the junior ones, gives them a sense of empowerment because they can do it themselves,” says Lantzsch.
From the junior area the playspace narrative unfolds, following the story toward more senior equipment and a more “helter-skelter type of chaos”, says Lantzsch.
“The equipment becomes much bigger and bolder, as are the play opportunities – representing essentially Mulga Bill losing control of the bike and going down the hill,” he adds.
Older kids can climb the Mulga Bill tower to see the shape of the eaglehawk, then, like Bill, rush down the tubes and slide out of his surprised face. There are also twirling bicycles, a rope traverse, rubber nest mound, double flying fox, and a tall stump kids can climb to reach a bell.
The elements within each zone are designed to be multifaceted. For example, the Silver Streak, named from a line in the poem, represents a giant bike ridden by Mulga Bill, with its two hamster-wheel combination and a trailing slipstream slide. Kids can tumble in two large wheels side by side, then zip down together on the silver slide.
The playspace was funded by the City of Greater Bendigo, with a $120,000 contribution from local community groups: Empowering Eaglehawk, Borough Club, Eaglehawk Rotary, Eaglehawk UFS Dispensary, Bendigo Regional YMCA, Y Service Club of Eaglehawk, Eaglehawk Lions Club, Villawood, Bendigo Bank, and the Family and Friends of Baby Zayden Veal-Whitting.
“The Eaglehawk community know how to rally together, fundraise and support each other. They are the strongest of any community I’ve ever worked with,” says Lantzsch.
Via Street Furniture Australia. Images Street Furniture Australia