5 minute read.
We recently had an Interview with Playground Designer Larissa Rose, Creo’s senior landscape architect, to get the inside word on all things design at Creo. Larissa is an industry leader when it comes to playspace design and has many achievements to her name. Among her successes are the designs of several major public playgrounds including Auckland’s Waterview Park Playground, Hastings’ Cornwall Park Playground, and the award-winning Anderson Park Playground in Napier. But it’s not all large scale public parks in her resume. Since joining Creo, Larissa has designed many Early Childhood and School playgrounds. We wanted to find out more about Larissa, her approach to playspace design, and what inspires her. Here’s what she had to say…
What is landscape architecture for you?
“Landscape Architecture is the design of places for people outside of buildings. It’s everything including streets, public spaces, school outside areas and urban design. What I’m doing here is a very small part of landscape architecture. It’s a very focused area looking at children and how they play and use a space.”
What led you to become a landscape architect?
“When I was in High School, I was interested in garden design. Enquiring into that, I looked at landscape architecture degrees, and that’s what I ended up doing through Unitech. I got my Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, then I managed to get an internship in my third year with Boffa Miskell. Which lead me on to work with them as a playground designer for a number of years.”
What do you think is the overarching aim of landscape architecture as it is applied to play?
“The benefits of a landscape architect who is looking into the playground design, as opposed to an equipment supplier, are that we are not only looking at what’s in the playground but also how it flows and functions. I think that’s what we provide as an added benefit. If you can get the space flowing from social spaces, through to access spaces, then you can bring out that added playfulness. We do this through the surfacing and level changes so it becomes a whole package rather than just some small interventions. It’s an entire space, it’s playful.”
What are the key challenges of designing for play and how do you address them?
“So I guess the biggest challenge as a playground designer is to do with people’s perceptions of risk. The challenge is trying to work with today’s safety standards but still provide a challenging space – which I personally believe is doable. For example, we’ve done 3m high platforms before which comply with safety standards and provide an excellent challenge for children. It’s a mixture of how you look at the rules and what you can do to fit things in.
Another challenge is that everyone is a critic with play spaces, everyone has played on one. Most people have children and so it’s trying to find everyone’s desires and fitting them into one space.
The third challenge is budget. What we specialise in at Creo is play value, so making sure that we get the most for your budget for your space.”
What do you think of garden gnomes?
“I don’t own one… they might have a right place but possibly not where I’m designing. Things need to be in context, we always say we will design a playground for your wish list. So if someone wanted garden gnomes, we would design a site that suited garden gnomes.”
What do you enjoy most about doing your work?
“Design is the key part which I find very rewarding, but also having designs built and having kids play in them is a key benefit of what we do. With some of the bigger playgrounds I’ve designed, it’s being able to go back and see how people play together, to be able to see the inter-generational play happening. It’s great to see adults joining in, using interactive play and being able to see people use it how we would have hoped.”
How do you see landscape architecture improving the wellbeing of children in the future?
“Looking at the young generations at the moment we have a growing number of kids who are stuck inside on devices. House sizes are getting smaller. So actually, providing these outside spaces is really critical to the development of children. As a playground designer if you don’t make it interesting enough and really welcome them in, there’s a chance they aren’t going to want to spend time there. Our job is to make them memorable, playful and a really good destination that draws in them and their families.”
What is Creo’s approach?
“At Creo we focus on abilities, ages and looking into how they’re going to use the space. Is there enough sensory information? Play is critical and we do our best learning during play, so it’s important to get kids out of the buildings and into the playground. We try to bring in topography play which brings in an open-ended way to play, we don’t tell you how you have to play. Having slope in your site is one of these benefits. Kids can roll down it, run up it – it’s challenging not just their body but their minds.”