Gone are the days where kids play in their neighbourhood streets until the street lights come on at night time. The reality is that parents worry, children are timid and cars are fast. As a result, children’s play opportunities within their neighbourhood and socialisation within a residential street are limited, negatively impacting community spirit and capacity for inclusion for people with disability.
In response to this overwhelming global phenomenon, Guymer Bailey partnered with the 7 Senses Street Day initiative and created a pop-up sensory wonderland outside their Brisbane office. Anyone and everyone was welcome at this free community event that aimed to challenge local councils to rethink the way our residential streets are designed. By integrating activities that stimulate the 7 human senses into the street design, local residents and children are engaged in a sensory environment that encourages a more playful and inclusive neighbourhood, as well as providing safe streetscapes that promote sustainable and active communities.
The inaugural 7 Senses Street Day, held on 16 November 2013, was a national design initiative to address the lack of opportunity children currently have to play safely in their own streets, and create more inspiring and engaged communities. Guymer Bailey partnered with the Street Day founders to develop a flagship pop-up street concept design in Brisbane, Australia.
Concept designs incorporated a 7 Senses framework; that is, designs considered and catered to all seven senses – sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch, and the two lesser known senses vestibular (sense of movement and balance) and proprioception (sense of body position in space). Guymer Bailey focused concept efforts on the small footpath area outside their Brisbane office located at Terrace Street, Toowong. Located only 4 kilometers from the Brisbane city centre, Terrace Street features high density residential blocks and is adjacent to some small retail and food outlets, providing the perfect ‘secondary activation’ for customers.
In transforming the street, Guymer Bailey chose to activate a small area of footpath and cordon off some on-street parking to create a compact, high intensity activation hub at the entry to the street, incorporating the 7 Senses into a variety of activities which suited all age groups. Bright balloons and painting activities were incorporated for sight, flowers and vegetable plantings for smell and touch, a chocolate hunt for taste, hand-made wind chimes and hanging cooking pots made perfect ‘instruments’ to create sound. Hopscotch stimulated the vestibular system, as mini golf did for proprioception. A collection of hay bales and colourful outdoor furniture tied the street activity zone together and provided a welcoming yet relaxed atmosphere for parents and adults to supervise from.
The activation of Terrace Street was a working example of how design professionals can influence and drive the development of more pedestrian-friendly and community-focused streets on an everyday scale. The success of the 7 Senses Day hosted by Guymer Bailey at Terrace Street is attributed to the scale of the space that was occupied. As it was a small area, people were not intimidated to drop by, letting their curiosity get the better of them; vehicles could still easily access the street, but automatically slowed down to look at the activity on the street, and parents could sit and actively supervise their children because all the sensory activities were closely sequenced. Also, by utilising only one side of the street, linear movement up and down the footpath was encouraged, thus creating a safe and educational outdoor environment for kids to play in, without fear of cars or traffic.
The Terrace Street transformation provided a successful retrofitting of compact urban space. This concept design complimented and added to the diversity of street concepts initiated for the 7 Senses Street Day with other flagship events, such Alma Road, Clayfield, able to use the full width of the street and reclaim street space through creation of distinct sensory ‘hubs’.
Together, Guymer Bailey and 7 Senses founders demonstrated that through a simple concept like ‘pop-up play’ and by incorporating the seven senses into play, we can influence and create more engaging, more active, and more playful communities in a variety of places.
7 Senses Street Day www.7senses.org.au
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Design firms: Guymer Bailey Landscape
Consultants: Playscape Creations, 7 Senses Foundation
Images & Text: Guymer Bailey Landscape