Gladstone in Queensland is now home to a unique play experience that is a first of its kind in Australia. A people-first design, Lions Park is an all-inclusive sensory playspace that meets the needs of all ages and abilities, influenced by a nature-meets-industry aesthetic.

Wanting to upgrade the existing facilities from the passive recreation space it had become into a highly engaging environment, in 2016 Gladstone Regional Council commissioned a Masterplan for Lions Park, seeking community involvement to ensure a range of facilities were provided to meet the needs of the region. With $3.5M in funds allocated to the project, the resulting facility exceeded all initial expectations for the space.

Focusing on the seven senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste, touch, vestibular and proprioception) Lions Park goes beyond accessibility, designed to cater to children and adults with sensory processing disorders, auditory processing disorders, visual impairment, Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and spina bifida.

JW Concepts worked as the landscape architect, in close collaboration with Struxi Design, Playscape Creations and Gladstone Regional Council, to design and oversee construction of the project. The brief called for the existing playspace to be dismantled and refurbished with a higher level of embellishment that would explore the interplay of industry and nature, and represent the industrial elements of Gladstone’s regional centre as a port town through play.

According to Playscape Creations, suppliers of the park’s play equipment, the park’s layout is based on the interaction of cogs, with interlocking zones of activity that accommodate a wide range of all-access activities, including swing and spin opportunities, action zones, water play spaces and nature play adventures that promote a connection to the natural elements onsite. A particular favourite in the park is the Five-way Swing Zone, which allows up to five people to swing together, encouraging interactive play and a shared experience.

Concrete walls that reflect the industrial nature of Gladstone act as space dividers for the different play areas. The park also provides a connection to the natural edge of Police Creek and establishes a connection between the commercial/retail zone and the park. A series of formal and informal paths create a narrative through the park, linking the active, passive and natural sectors of the space. In addition, furnished seating areas were established in order to encourage passive enjoyment of the park.

Established trees and plants such as Nardoo waterlilies, sedge grass, paperbark trees and eucalypt stands encourage local wildlife from the nearby creek to stick around. The existing natural environment informed elements of the park’s design, promoting visual and sensory experiences by utilising natural forms for the sculptural and functional play structures. While existing trees needed to be removed to accommodate the new facility, additional plantings were added that will provide ample shade in time. In the meantime, soaring shade towers, reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s Gyrocopter design, protect park users from the elements.

An outstanding effort on the part of all involved, Lions Park is a new benchmark for public playspaces that offers the hope of inclusion to all sectors of the community.

JW Concepts
P   07 3856 0233
W   www.jwconcepts.com.au

Landscape Architect
JW Concepts
Project Managers HNK Project Management
Playground Equipment Playscape Creations
Building Design Struxi Design

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