Putting play back on the city agenda with PLAY[ground]

HASSELL recently teamed up with not for profit organisation Archikidz and Sydney Living Museums, on a playful project to make kids seen and heard in the city. Together, the team created PLAY[ground] – a place that would inspire tomorrow’s thinkers and city makers to play, experiment and toy with ideas about the future shape of our cities.


For three days HASSELL and Archikidz, with the help of 100 volunteers, transformed the Hyde Park Barracks, in the heart of Sydney, into a captivating destination for spontaneous, uninhibited play. 
‘Playability’ is an important consideration for our urban environments as it brings life into our city spaces, and encourages people to linger, explore and most importantly, smile, says Jon Hazelwood, Principal at HASSELL.
“Play brings joy, it helps people feel connected, included and excited by the cities they live in. The projects undertaken by Archikidz are important because they allow the next generations to present fresh perspectives on how we can make our cities better for everyone who lives there – young and old,” he said.


A sell-out space to swing, climb, crawl, tunnel, jump and connect
As a free, ticketed event PLAY[ground] reached capacity before the gates even opened. Six thousand people – including 4,000 children – attended over the course of the three-day installation that was part of the 2015 VIVID Sydney festival.

The Archikidz brief called for a single playground. But, after testing early plans with a group of children, HASSELL created a collection of interactive installations to inspire different types of outdoor play. Kids were diving into multi-coloured ball pools, shimmying up ropes, and running through the maze of plants and a forest of multi-coloured ribbons made from old parachutes. Retired sailing spinnakers and timber palettes were given new life as platforms for kids to swing on, climb through, crawl under and jump off.


At the end of it all, everything was repurposed, returned or recycled – accomplishing the ultimate low cost, low impact event at the heritage-listed barracks.


Getting serious about fun
Through PLAY[ground], HASSELL and Archikidz explored what happens when a child’s vision of play is inserted into the adult world. Ideas were tested with kids throughout the design process and their responses to the final outcome recorded. These insights will be used to inspire fresh strategies for public engagement and inform future public realm projects.


The program for PLAY[ground] included a number of free workshops about city-making and the built environment. Kids, families and friends immersed themselves in green wall workshops, drew their visions for the future city, and experimented with new ways of travelling through the city with parkour lessons.


Kids shared their thoughts about how they would make cities more liveable and fun in the HASSELL ‘Little House: Big ideas’ – a wooden cubby house in the middle of PLAY[ground]. While there were plenty of references to jet packs and robots, many kids spoke about the importance of green space, how living in an apartment allows you to make the most of the city, and new types of environmentally-friendly transport they would like to see ‘when they grow up’.






Location | Sydney, Australia
Landscape Architect | HASSELL
Client | Archikidz and Sydney Living Museums
Collaborators | HASSELL, Archikidz, Sydney Living Museums, Imprint Acoustics, Junglefy, Innov8 Access, JumpSquad, Andreasens Green, Design Landscape
Photography | James Horan; Vin Rathod; HASSELL
Plan/Concepts | HASSELL

About Damian Holmes 3292 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 https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianholmes/