Playground designer Lucilla Marshall welcomed her fifth child, baby Enakai Indigo Smith, into the world on 3 March 2009. Without skipping a beat, almost nine months later, it was time to the deliver, in her own words, “my sixth baby” – otherwise known as the Riverway All Abilities Playground. The proud mum shares her thoughts and reflections below.
To me, an all abilities playground is a place where all children can play and interact, regardless of their age, sex, social skills or abilities. In order to meet these universal needs, community involvement throughout the entire design process, particularly during planning and design development, is essential.
Full community consultation is a process I’ve always used in my designing, but it is not often done – or not done enough.
Within the new Townsville City Council, this project did set a new benchmark. Rather than informed consultation, where people were presented plans for comment, we actively sought residents’ input in what should be included from the very start.
But, if it wasn’t for our collaborative partnership with The Umbrella Network, we would have been lost. With the assistance of the group, we were able to access networks of families of children with a disability and the local professionals that work with them. This gave us invaluable insight into the lives of families and children with a disability, which is the primary target group whose needs most need to be met in order to truly achieve ‘universal’ design.
If I had any words of advice for playground designers it would to be to plan well, get to know your target groups, and be creative and open-minded. Be imaginative with the ways that you capture people’s ideas, particularly those who use different forms of expression, and be open-minded in how you resolve their ideas in your design. Always keep the end user in mind and make it fun! Also, be open regarding all aspects of design decision-making, including budget matters.
Collaboratively, I believe we’ve created a great physically and socially-inclusive playground, which we think can only get better. Opening it alongside The Umbrella Network and other contributors was a proud moment for me and most certainly a career highlight.
— Lucilla Marshall
Accolade: Park designer Lucilla Marshall presented a paper on the Riverway All Abilities Playground at the 2010 Parks and Leisure (PLA) Australia National Conference in Adelaide in September 2010.