Inclusive Playground in Tuen Mun Park to open soon
Hong Kong’s first inclusive playground (IP) in Tuen Mun Park themed on “water” and “sand” will open soon, which provides yet another great place for our children to burn their energy! Unlike the traditional playgrounds, the IP created by the design team will provide a quality barrier-free recreational area for children of different ages and abilities to play together, experience all sorts of fun and learn different skills. Recently, accompanied by colleagues of the Architectural Services Department (ArchSD), I have paid a visit to the IP, the first of its kind in Hong Kong, to learn more about its design concepts, special features and, in particular, the efforts made by the design team and the relevant stakeholders behind the scenes.
Adopting winning design concepts to promote inclusive play experience
The design concepts of the IP in Tuen Mun Park come from the winning entries of the Inclusive Play Space Design Ideas Competition, jointly organised in 2015 by the Playright Children’s Play Association (PCPA), the Hong Kong Committee for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects, with the support of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), the ArchSD and the Tuen Mun District Council (TMDC). Colleagues of the ArchSD have adopted the winning concepts and further enhanced the design.
The IP is divided into the northern and southern sections with a total of seven themed play zones. Built on the design theme of “Water-lily Park”, the northern playground uses water lilies to convey the message of equality. The three themed zones in the northern playground are Flower Dew Plaza, Contour Play Zone and Musical Zone. A vast array of recreational facilities are provided there for children with or without disabilities, including a water play zone, an undulating area, trampolines and musical playthings such as percussion instruments and drums.
The design theme for the southern playground is “Reptile Fun”, which was inspired by the Reptile House of Tuen Mun Park. Through the reptile theme, children are encouraged to interact with nature. This southern section comprises four themed zones: Reptile Paradise, Egg Hunter, Spinning Zone and Sensory Zone. Children with or without disabilities can climb over climbing frames of different heights and play on all kinds of slides according to their own abilities, dig eggs from the sand pit, and play with various swinging and spinning equipment as well as sensory movable parts.
Enhancing design Continuing community participation
What does a playground look like in children’s mind? In the design process, the ArchSD team engaged the community by inviting 30 stakeholders from different sectors, including voluntary and charitable agencies from the social welfare sector, professional bodies, tertiary institutions, the LCSD and competition winners to attend two workshops to enhance the design and further improve the layout of the playground and the design of the play components, so as to cater for the needs of children.
As part of community participation, the design team visited the Yan Oi Tong Tin Ka Ping Secondary School and Hong Chi Morninghope School in Tuen Mun to meet with over 20 Junior Commissioners who have participated in the Junior Playground Commissioner Incubation Programme organised by the PCPA and listen to children’s views. This approach to engaging the community in the design of projects will definitely serve as a reference for future playground projects.
Tailor-made play equipment
On the day of our visit, the Landscape Architects of the ArchSD introduced that unlike the playgrounds in the past routinely adopting a canned design in all their play equipment, the leisure facilities of the IP in Tuen Mun Park are tailored to suit the specific site environment. They have also put a lot of effort into the selection of plants for the playground, for example, the aromatic Banana Shrub, the leaf-shedding Sweet Gum and the moving Sensitive Plant, all of which can enrich sensory experience and bring children and nature closer together.
Colleagues also briefed me on the play equipment for people with disabilities and the thoughtful approach to the design. For instance, in light of parents’ concerns that kids wearing cochlear implants will feel unease when sliding down a plastic slide, the design team selected a set of stainless steel slides for hearing impaired children. The lower roller embankment slide enables children with impaired mobility to enjoy the experience of sliding. In addition, the playground also features a small tunnel, low walls and barriers, which can help autistic children stay away from external stimuli and ease their sense of anxiety before they gradually get familiar with the environment.
Incorporating special swings
Furthermore, the ArchSD colleagues have incorporated comments from the District Facilities Management Committee of the TMDC and introduced an additional swing section featuring three kinds of special swings, namely cradle swings, parent-child swings and seat swings. Unlike the traditional swings, the cradle swings encourage children to play on the swings together with their parents or friends to boost exchange and communication with one another, while the seat swings come with seat belts to cater for children with impaired mobility.
The Government attaches great importance to children’s rights and recognises that play is essential to the healthy development of children. I hope that more inclusive play elements will be injected into our future playgrounds to add more fun, creativity and excitement to park facilities and create play spaces adored by children.
16 September, 2018