Paddocks Precinct | Sydney Australia | McGregor Coxall

Located in the World Heritage listed Parramatta Park the design approach for the Paddocks Precinct pays close attention to the sensitivities and complexities of the site whilst simultaneously addressing the pressing demand to provide an exemplary playspace amenity for the rapidly growing and culturally diverse local community.  Occupied by the first European settlers who arrived in Australia the Paddocks has significant cultural heritage, where settlers once grew crops and raised cattle. The design references the paddocks concept through the expansive rectangular field conceived to reference the original Paddocks through mowing the lawn.

One of the main drivers in the design process and one of the key challenges was accommodating the needs of the community in the context of the World Heritage site, particularly the restrictions on excavating anywhere within the site boundary.  Contrary to the original masterplan the team devised to relocate the playspace from the open grassland to the woodland adjacent to the creek. The Domain Creek Playground aptly named due to its proximity to the adjacent creek sits within an existing stand of trees, providing immediate shade protection visitors and an engaging experience with the unique ecology of the site.  To this end, the playground layout and construction has been designed to limit its impact on the existing landscape by elevating it above the ground plane and using natural and neutral coloured materials and planting that bed it within its context. This unified composition combined with the idea of a ‘floating’ playground elevated above the ground level mitigated the challenges posed by the site constraints.

The playground is composed of a series of play rings, a deck structure that includes a water feature, floating net and flying fox. The play rings contain a variety of bespoke and proprietary play elements either in sand or soft fall rubber surfacing with pathways surrounding these play areas. The playground has been created with universal accessibility and engagement in mind e.g. wide pathways and ramps allows access for wheelchair users and the flying fox has a sturdy seat with handles and a seat belt.

An extensive community consultation process was undertaken during the design process. Two drop-in style information and feedback sessions were conducted to provide information and to answer specific questions about the proposed play equipment. Participants were also asked to provide feedback on the location and preference of play equipment for children less than five years of age. This feedback was considered and incorporated into the playground layout.

The project addressed best practice sustainability challenges through the establishment of two key design principles:

  • Respect the open expansive nature and significant heritage components of the site by locating the proposed new facilities and activities to the site’s edge, nestled within the existing tree canopy and reducing their visual impact on the overall site.
  • Ensure clarity between the site’s past historic layers and this new layer. Embrace a contemporary design aesthetic that does not mimic the old and therefore confuse the visitor as to what it is old and what it is new.

Low environmental impact materials such as sand, stone, recycling timber and decomposed granite have been used to further blend the playground into its natural settings. The use of rubber softfall has been limited to where all abilities access to play equipment is required.

Domain Creek Playground has something for every age and ability, and provides back to nature play in the heart of Parramatta.  The project team included Playground design specialist Ric McConaghy and Fleetwood Urban who delivered the bespoke site structures. The playground opened in March 2015 and has since become a firm favorite in the entire region.


Paddocks Precinct

Parramatta Park, Parramatta, NSW, Australia

Design Firm
McGregor Coxall

Alluvium Consulting Australia
Applied Ecology
City Plan Heritage Pty Ltd
Craig & Rhodes
Kayandel Archaeological Services
MBMpl Pty Ltd
Parramatta Park Trust
Ric McConaghy Pty Ltd

Credits for images and text
Images | McGregor Coxall & Simon Whitbread
Text | McGregor Coxall

About Damian Holmes 3339 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at