Guildford Grammar Nature Play Space

Nature play is about getting children outdoors and in unstructured play, and Nature Play WA are always on the lookout for creative, fun, interesting and different ways this has been realised in nature play spaces.

Which is why I was so excited to have a sneak peak at the new Guildford Grammar School nature play space as it was being completed.

It’s not often we get the chance to describe a nature play space as contemporary, but this space manages to achieve a strong and bold design ethos, that matches in with the schools new buildings, whilst still providing some really fun and creative play ideas.  Described by one staff member as ‘left of field’ the landscape architect on this project really took the idea of play in a built environment and ran with it.

The site uses huge slabs of stone to connect the different spaces with the surrounding buildings and incorporates large play pieces, like the awesome wall slide, with beautifully designed subtle details.

Personally I love how a simple rut cut into the stone creates a cascade flow of water down into the sand pit; a creative way to incorporate site furniture with play.

Designed for students in years 1-5, the space incorporates water play, climbing elements, a tunnel, slides, amphitheater and a maze.  Utilising the varying levels across the site adds interest and incorporates many opportunities to climb, jump and balance.  The varying heights also allow for the creation of many informal seating nodes giving students choices of how to use the space socially.

The combination of off-the-shelf items with custom made pieces provides opportunity for the children to lead the play.  Having small areas that are elevated above the site will always encourage imaginative games, especially with the inclusion of water and sand.  And I love that the school has combined a sleek water feature with play, allowing children into all elements of the space whilst still presenting the aesthetic they wanted to achieve.

Four Landscape Studio was engaged to design the space as part of the construction of new buildings at the school.  Whilst this process certainly afforded the school opportunities that benefited the design there are many ideas and tips that can be used in any type of play space, for any budget.  Some of these include:

  • Using similar materials, colours or plant species across a site will help tie the spaces together and give the project continuity.
  • Utilise any core elements you have to have in your space for play; take seating, water fountains, walls, stairs and make them fun.
  • Keep the design flexible, having a whole space that can be utilised for play, outdoor learning and lunchtime eating and gathering is the best possible outcome.

Thanks to Guildford Grammar for giving me the opportunity to have a look at their new playground and for having the confidence in their designers to move away from traditional play.  It is a beautifully detailed space that fits into its surroundings immediately and provides creative and flexible play opportunities for the students.  We can’t wait to see how the students and the plants mature and use the space.

review by Shea Hatch - landscape architect - at the completion of the project in 2015
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