I had the fortune/misfortune of living right on the boundary of a new park being constructed. Through the dust and noise we watched the pieces come together that created the now very popular Frew Park at Milton. There were times that the most mysterious things were happening in the construction process, in particular the huge concrete slabs being dropped in on angles, tall structures and from our view, it just did not look like a regular playground. And it's not. There was so much excitement on the day of opening, from everyone in the community, and designers Rob Waddell and Ralph Bailey say that that is the most rewarding part of the hard work that goes into a project like this.
"It's not about the money" says Ralph, an experienced and accomplished architect at Guymer Bailey. "Seeing people use and interact with structures and spaces we have created is the satisfying part."
The brief for this Brisbane City Council led project, was to ensure history was honoured, and for designers to create something of a deconstructed stadium. Winning the tender to undertake this was no easy feat. A full tender process was required, with a design competition against 3 other shortlisted favourites. Guymer Bailey felt in they were in a unique position to bring architectural influence to the table, and as it turns out, their proposal indeed stood out. They're approach to the play structure was to inspire awe, incite challenge and create connection between the form and the land it lies on, and between people using the space.
The site itself holds many stories of Brisbane's past, from it's early beginnings as the Western River bed where John Oxley explored, to becoming a rubbish dumping site, major sporting and entertainment stadium and a bowling alley. This unstable fill below, did provide some challenges to the design and construction of the structure, with lots of considerations from a structural engineering point of view.
The creative side of the design sees a strong depiction of the deconstructed stadium, with references to the tennis history with all the names of the play zones. There is a sense of enclosure like a grandstand, with centre court being the grass patch in the middle.
The target demographic is 10-15yr olds, but I've seen people of all ages enjoying this space. It's challenging enough for tweens and teens, with equipment for the smaller ones. Families use the hoops for shooting, courts for tennis, and grown ups and kids venture down all the slides.
The thing that really struck me about this park was the level of challenge. With rock climbing walls, balancing beam, and access to a really high slide through many climbing activities, I feel like it brings back a bit of that old school play, where danger and risk were a good thing. It's definitely fitting within all the legal requirements, but I just love that it's pushed those boundaries to their limits.
It's been an amazing addition to the local community of Milton, Paddington, Rosalie, Auchenflower, but I've talked to people who've driven much further to come and experience Frew Park. We spent almost every summer evening BBQing and playing as the sun goes down, and I know our family is looking forward to doing that again this year.