Hunter & Central Coast Development Corporation
2018 – Current
Gosford, New South Wales, Australia
“Gosford Leagues Club Field sets a new standard for regional playgrounds and open spaces across the State. The final designs showcase best practice in creating exemplary play spaces that invite everyone in the community to stay and play.”
Rob Stokes, NSW Planning Minister
This project is fundamentally about connection; to the amazing landscape of Brisbane waters, connection to Darkinjung ‘country’ and connection to the wider community.
Gosford, one of the earliest European settlements in New South Wales and now a thriving town, is undergoing significant revitalization, led by a number of State government initiatives including Gosford Leagues Club Park – an inauspicious cluster of underutilised playing fields on reclaimed waterfront separated from Brisbane Waters by Dane Drive, an arterial road.
Our brief was to provide a town green, a regional playground, conserve existing phoenix palms, extend Baker Street to provide frontage for new adjacent development, and lastly, provide a new and ‘community node’.
Discovery of the early shoreline on historical surveys, located deep within the park, long buried, strongly influenced the park narrative and its overall physical form. We saw an opportunity to not simply interpret, but also restore this lost shoreline in a kind of archaeological dig, revealing the bay floor as an estuarine wild play area, a ‘Tidal Terrace’– a place to play, to learn, to connect to nature.
Our approach was to codesign the project with the three key stakeholders: our client Hunter Central Coast Development Corporation (HCCDC), Central Coast Council (CCC) and Darkinjung Local Land Council; via a series of design workshops identifying key attributes, opportunities and options for site development.
Working with the Darkinjung, we learnt the site was once an important camp, a place of trade and cultural exchange, a meeting ground between the Darkinjung clans and with adjoining nations such as the Gadigal, Gomeroi and Wiraduri.
The Darkinjung oral history recounts this place as an important point of first contact between the Darkinjung and Europeans – when charting the Brisbane Waters in the first months of settlement, Phillip’s exploration party found a large camp with a marina of canoes at the shoreline.
We also learnt in these workshops the importance of ‘country’, both land and sea, as resource and spiritual connection. Elder and artist Kevin Gavi Duncan shared important local rock carvings and asked if these could somehow be incorporated in the park.
The Tidal Terrace became a place to interpret these songlines and stories; the camp, first contact and carvings, in a new meeting ground for all. At its heart is a central community node, Norimbah – a dance ground defined by timber totems of both clans and nations
Mythic sea creatures in the shape of local rock carvings, formed as stone terraces, swim in on the tide, reinhabiting the recovered coastline, encircling both the Norimbah and also Phillips’ Gig, approaching from the bay. Two songlines forever intertwined. The community is invited in; to experience and to play. The Tidal Terrace is the focal point, however the park offers more. Play opportunities for all abilities and ages extend into adjoining spaces, the ‘Seed Pod’ play towers located atop the adjacent berm offer expansive views to the bay and active natural play.
The ‘Fish Trap’, a communal rope structure invites immersive, imaginative play as it sways in space. To the north of the Tidal Terrace is Ray Maher Field, an open lawn framed by mature Date Palms, capable of accommodating everything from kicking a ball to a major civic event.
To the east, Baker Street is extended as a pedestrian zone shared with slow moving vehicles, providing access to neighbouring buildings as well as key spaces, adjoining BBQs, picnic facilities, showers, amenities building and exercise area.