Does the way we procure playgrounds create the finest design solutions that offer the best value to communities?
As a playground design consultancy and supplier, we have delivered play in every guise of procurement possible. What we know is each Local Authority is unique and each local authority is guided by a number of variants that balances, design, play value, maintenance, budget and capacity. But what we also can observe is that sometimes the weighting of a playground design may lean too heavily one way over another and doesn’t ultimately bring the best value to the community it serves.
So what would we propose?
The best results are ALWAYS achieved when working in a collaborative way, which is a challenge when there is a large portfolio to manage, but imagine if you could run a playground project where your community was completely invested in the design? Or your working knowledge of the site, landscape and the history behind it was accurately represented?
Play Space designers, regardless of how experienced and creative they are will never be the people closest to the project and those inner workings should never be underestimated in the value it brings to the project design. Is that fairly represented in a prove versus quality proposal? Is that delivering the best value when heading to the pretty picture process?
Below we discuss how this collaborative approach has proven hugely successful for our clients at Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council
EXPLORATORY PHASE (RIBA 0-1): Meeting to explore ideas and concepts. Whether it is for a Landscape Architect with a definitive plan or a client who wants Jupiter Play to create a concept, this stage enables us to explore themes, materials and palettes while also defining budgets and timescales.
The exploratory phase is the part of the project that our team tend to enjoy the most, as this is the time that you can be creative. This case study is Poole Park Heritage Project consisting of three sites. At the design and build tender stage we did not need to design and play space itself the emphasis was on evidencing how we would work with the client, presenting a strong concept and showing more of a sense of the space. Including the colours, the textures, the experiences and maybe some of the products that we would look to develop. We always like to conduct in-depth research of an area and investigate the heritage to build a picture, looking for inspiration for stories that we can tell in the space through the design. In this case, Poole Park is a traditional Victorian park and the client wanted to explore the idea of Victorian plant hunters voyaging to unknown lands to bring back plants.
INITIAL PROPOSAL (RIBA 1-2): In response to the initial discussion, we will develop a stage 1 proposal document outlining the context of the area, inspiration, material/colour palette, initial sketches, product suggestions and initial layout. This will facilitate the next stage of consultation to develop a detailed concept.
After winning the project and setting up a working group with the client we started to flesh out a concept. This concept was specifically for the smaller of the three areas. Our Senior Designer and Bespoke Specialist Rosie was perfect for this project as she has grown up around plants as her mum was a landscape architect and both her parents are horticulturalists. It was a dream pairing between designer and project brief.
The idea for this smaller space was to create the landscape of an exotic land a rural Chinese landscape that would transport children to another world very unlike their own. Inspiration was taken from the rice fields and gorgeous landscape pavilion by Pendi.
DEVELOP CONCEPT (RIBA 2-3): Once the stage 1 proposal document is agreed upon, with a budget, we will create a more concrete design and CAD ready for costing by Jupiter Play. The design must be signed off by all stakeholders before moving to stage 4.
Rosie was nervous presenting this concept to the group as she thought it may be a bit ambitious and maybe a bit too niche, but it was well-received. After taking on board everyone’s feedback we moved on to developing the concept and taking the design into CAD and 3D form to communicate the concept to the local community.
It was so rewarding that a lot of the community consultation was able to be carried out despite the pandemic and it has directly impacted aspects of the design, so they will really get a sense of ownership. It’s worth noting at this stage that we looked to have drawings signed off by the client here before taking it any further just because of the time stage for takes.
TECHNICAL DESIGN (RIBA 3-4): Signed off drawings and concepts are developed to a technical stage by our partner brands who will ensure feasibility, check compliance, produce costings and technical drawings. We will also offer specifications for project packs and planning.
At stage four we go through a careful process of detailing all the aspects of the project and drawing up bespoke units to send over to the suppliers. We create documents to determine the specific design elements we would like manufacturing, using visuals as you can see below. In this case, we wanted to add carvings such as the Koi Carp to the balancing stills and colour the posts using a blend of colours. We also adapted some of the catalogue pieces of equipment as well to also fit the theme and tell the story. Our supplies take all this information and draw up engineered designs from which we can obtain a final price, so up until this point, all prices are indicative.
CONSTRUCTION DRAWINGS (RIBA 4-5): Once technical drawings and budgets have been agreed and signed off, the product is ready for production. Detailed installation drawings are issued on completion of manufacture, however, indicative installation drawings can be produced pre-build.
After an order is placed the equipment goes into production, everything is built in the factory first and this informs the installation drawings. It happens in this way as in the case of Robinia in particular, every post is different, so every foundation hold is different. We can however provide indicative installation drawings at early stages if necessary for informative reasons.
INSTALLATION (RIBA 5-6): Jupiter Play can be nominated as a full design to build contractor. We also can work on a supply only basis and work in an advisory capacity for contractors on site.
Finally, the installation stage so Jupiter Play can be nominated as a full design and build contractor to work on a supply only basis or in an advisory capacity for contractors. We carefully choose our contractor teams for each job and regularly attend the site throughout the installation, even for the Poole Park build, which we revisited regularly from Nottingham (close to 200 miles). It was really rewarding to see the concept gradually come to life and we are always impressed with the scale of the Robinia.
Our favourite aspect really has to be the vibrancy and quality of the colours that the Robinia has been painted. It has really brightened up the space and made it a really appealing place to play. In this picture, you can see the carvings of the Koi Carp and if you look closely the bouncing discs have been manufactured to look like Lily pads and this is the client’s favourite part of the space, the small pond area.
We really enjoyed the whole process for Poole Park because we think the best playgrounds and therefore play experiences are when projects are delivered when working in a collaborative way, mostly with Landscape Architects to deliver this type of experience. So many tender processes miss the mark in creating a sense of place or even some play value for the children, it becomes a tick box exercise, and we are not advocates of that.
Here is a little sneak peek of the other site, this is the largest site which we are in the process of installing right now. This is themed around a jungle adventure that a plant hunter would take to collect their precious specimens. This is the overgrown ancient temple and you can see the gold of the temple is still visible, even though the jungle is taking over. It’s got a real impact, we have a slide going into the lagoon, two cableways running down the hill in succession which we have not really seen before and even a working campfire (minus the fire of course) and so we’re really looking forward to sharing this place space with everyone in the future.
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