Guymer Bailey Architects in partnership with The Play Works and Brisbane City Council designed the Arena Play Structure. It is now the centrepiece of Frew Park, Council’s newly developed inner-city parkland on the site of a former Tennis Centre at Milton, Brisbane. The Arena’s design resembles no other ‘typical’ playground design; its complex architectural structure, unique in form and of monumental scale, has become the focus of ‘play’ experience.
Guymer Bailey + The Play Works competed for the project by developing a concept design and construction approach for the Arena conducive with Council’s design brief, conceptual framework and budget. After being awarded the project, the team worked closely and collaboratively with Council’s Project Team. The relationship was characterised by mutual understanding and a joint commitment to the project’s design framework and an ideal outcome sought by Council. Guymer Bailey also worked closely with the structural engineer to mitigate adverse geotechnical conditions within a tight budget. Durable materials were selected to meet the need for low maintenance and long-life expectation and thus a sustainable outcome.
The theme of the Arena Play Structure is ‘deconstruction’, in that memories of the iconic Milton tennis stadium remain in symbiosis with contemporary Arena recreation. ‘Deconstruction’ is thus represented by large precast concrete panels of varying heights and angles; suspended concrete slabs; angled steel struts; steel mesh tunnels and barriers; and angular folded roof canopies arranged in an arc to enclose a central lawn space. Youngsters of different ages can climb all over, through, and around the deconstructed Arena to explore a series of play precincts which reflect spaces typically found in a stadium, such as the Grandstand, and the Commentary Box — a steel-mesh box suspended eight metres above the ground.
The structure has then been supplemented by theme-specific play elements and street art to amplify its play value and contextualise its visual appeal. Play features include slides, climbing walls, swings, nets and ropes, hang-out spaces, and interactive components. The main entry to the Arena Play Structure is marked by a large street-art mural heralding excitement at arrival.
While it provides play experience for all age groups and abilities, the Arena Play Structure more specifically targets ‘players’ of 10 to 15 years. Therefore, the design offers participants a variety of challenges but also meets Australian playground safety standards. In fact, public feedback shows overwhelming appreciation for play opportunities that do involve challenge. This contrasts with the design trend of the last few decades in Australia, which has largely excluded older children.
Project name: Frew Park Arena Play Structure
Location: Frew Park, Milton, Brisbane, Australia
Design Year: 2013 – 2014
Design firms: Guymer Bailey Architects
Client: Brisbane City Council (City Projects Office)
Consultants: The Play Works (Play Consultant), Michael Bale & Associates (Structural Engineer), Play DMC (Playground Certifier), The Zoo Keeper (Artist), The Play Works (Head Contractor), H&G Contractors (Building Subcontractor)
Photography: Scott Burrows Photography
Text: Guymer Bailey Architects