Placemaking activity – Home away from home

By Andrew Curnow, Eloise Mitchell, Josh Mannerheim, Hanyu Yang & Yiran Wang.

Kids love jumping castles and parents love coffee! This engagement station brought the two together to foster an informal space for conversations focused on family needs in a public park.

The purpose of this engagement station was focused on attracting families by providing a child friendly activity where parents could relax and not worry about their children’s safety. Students utilised a jumping castle as a drawcard for this purpose and placed several tables beside the castle for parents to enjoy free coffee. In this relaxed atmosphere, students were able to hold meaningful conversations with parents where they sought to gain the perspective of parents surrounding their needs of a park and its facilities. While students had prepared questions, as facilitators it was important to allow conversations to flow and listen deeply to what parents were saying.

Further to the conversations, students had prepared two other data collection strategies. The first was a set of three boards with each board asking a pivotal question;

  • ‘what do you like?’ – seeking to understand what people liked about their park through 9 images of exiting park features which people could vote on using dot stickers.
  • ‘what do you want?’ – aimed at determining what people would like to see in their park, this board featured a map of the park where they could attach images (trees, art, shade, nature play, water fountains, benches, coloured walkways) for purpose of creating a conceptual design map.
  • ‘what do you think?’ – allowed people to write on poster notes for further thoughts and feedback.

Students lastly conducted a behaviour study to map how people related to the existing site and what type of behaviours they engaged in. This included mapping how they community engaged in all activities of the park and those of other student groups. Data was collected on age, gender, family composition, activity types, movement, and time on site.

What worked about this activity?

Through the jumping castle as an attractor, students were able to engage 30 people. One of the merits of this engagement activity was how it was able to deformalize conversations with parents while children were off jumping about. The student’s felt this allowed for more open dialogue and provided a space for meaningful conversations where the parents weren’t stressed about what their children were up to.

What students learned about this place?

Through this placemaking activity students identified three primary concerns of the community:

  1. Access to shade within the park
  2. Quality of the existing playground
  3. Lack of dwelling spaces throughout the park
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