Placemaking activity – Play

By Rob Snelling, Kendal McQuire, Polyvios Nicolau, Rick Clarke.

How can a site be playfully reimagined to inspire new forms of play? Students wanted to gain an understanding of the genius loci (sprit of place), discover what types of play would be appropriate for the site, and catalyse discussions with locals.

Through a series of 7 play stations, students sought to engage the community in a myriad of manners and to gain insight into the identity of Paine Reserve, popularity of different play spaces and anecdotal observations of the community’s experience of place. Furthermore, the activities provided an opportunity to trigger conversations, give voice and life to the community. The 7 play stations were linked via a trail to map and observe how people interacted with these activities. The activities were designed for all ages and to provide both qualitative and quantitative data. The play stations designed were a wishing tree, hug a tree self-portrait, roll the ball along the wall, ride the train, tic tac toe visual preferencing, checkers and chess, and a park library.

Most popular Activities
  1. The wishing tree activity served as a dreaming exercise which was used to uncover the spirit of the site where a central question was posed to locals, what is the personality of Paine Reserve? Participants were asked to respond using a coloured paper heart where upon participants could provide a written response and attach the heart to the wishing tree. Across 2 hrs, 11 people engaged in the activity.
  2. Tic tac toevisual preferencing sought to understand the hardware that the community would be interested to see in their playground. Each participant was presented nine different concepts (e.g. Trains, water play, novelty, shade, nature adventure, climbing). Each concept was presented with three images for a total of 27 images whereby using 5 dot stickers, participants were to select their favourite 5. Over 2 hrs, 22 people participated and the favourite concept voted in was an image of waterplay with a favourite image being an image of sitting with your feet in a creek. Data was then combined across age groups and genders. Students did however reflect on the bias of the images they selected.
  3. The park library was designed as an outdoor space with outdoor luxuries. Students provided rugs, cushions, pot plants and a shady environment for reading in the park.
What worked about this activity?

The array of activities was particularly useful, allowing for a greater set of data to be collected. The activities were helpful in creating a relaxed atmosphere for stimulating meaningful conversations with community members. However, despite including activities in the shade, the engagements occurred on a very hot day and this limited participation.

What students learned from this place?
  • Paine Reserve is a popular part of Newport which already embodies a sense of community and civic engagement.
  • The site has a strong spirit of ‘play’ present in both programmed and non-programmed spaces.
  • The community preference is for an attractively designed space which is usable in all seasons, weather and times of day.
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