The City of Melbourne’s Nature Play at Royal Park has been crowned the country’s overall best public play space by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA).
Nature Play is adjacent to Melbourne’s new Royal Children’s Hospital, and is encompassed by the partnership project between City of Melbourne and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services to re‐establish parkland on the former Royal Children’s Hospital site. The project is a prominent new gateway for Royal Park, with a new landscape created based on the traditional seven Wurundjeri seasons of Melbourne. These are central to the structure, planting and play experiences of the space.
Nature Play was congratulated for its responsive design – to the local heritage of place as well as respecting the highly valued character of Royal Park, and by encouraging patient and staff interaction. The result is an engaging corner of Royal Park, with meandering paths, open flexible lawn spaces, gathering places, and connection with big skies. It centres around active and imaginative play spaces built on the new landform of hills, gullies, grasslands and creeks, connecting with the existing parkland. Children of all ages are encouraged to scramble and climb, get wet and dirty, and be challenged. People of differing needs are considered, with special attention paid to how the space could be inclusive and allow people to be and play together. It is not unusual to see a medical team wheeling a patient in a hospital bed up to the edge of the water play.
AILA’s Australia’s Best Playground Award seeks to recognise and celebrate the country’s best public play spaces and the innovative landscape architects that create them, as well as inspiring communities to engage in their local play places. See all the entrants and winners here.
Nature Play is at the corner of Gatehouse Street & Flemington Road, Parkville VIC 3052.