Winning Waterloo Through Nature Play
When the Community Design Collaborative debuted its second INFILL competition – “PlaySpace,” featuring nature play as a theme, we were intrigued. Three years ago our team won the first INFILL competition, which featured cutting-edge stormwater-management innovations. This Playspace competition presented another opportunity for us to test our theories on urban green infrastructure and greenspace.
The Waterloo Recreation Center in Norris Square – one of three sites featured in PlaySpace – inspired us. Our first team meeting was launched with a cacophony of observations, conjectures and inspired ideas about the site.
Waterloo Recreation Center’s vast pavement and aging infrastructure were familiar to us from our decades of work in green urban design. Moreover, the strength and commitment of the Norris Square Community compelled us to bring some of our technical expertise to the table.
More than five hundred hours later, we had undertaken numerous design charrettes (with collaborators Studio Ludo and Space for Childhood), we had interviewed community members, experimented with new rendering software and with nature printing techniques, and we had conceived numerous stormwater and infrastructural design innovations. One of our team members even had a child during the competition!
In addition to our commitment to green stormwater infrastructure, we adopted a few guiding principles from the outset: (1) We would design natural spaces into this playground without depaving. (2) We would infuse natural elements to rebalance the space and engage all age groups, not just children. (3) The park would celebrate and respect the culture and community.
Throughout the process, we were inspired by the legacy of this park and driven at every turn to make the most of its constraints. In our design 1) outmoded play equipment was renovated to become multi-use play features, 2) the existing concrete pavement was used to siphon rainwater into interactive play features, and 3) and the basketball courts were provided electrical access-points to double as a plaza or marketplace for vendors.
To our delight, our entry was ranked first in its class by each of the three deciding juries: the expert jury, community jury AND award jury. Winning Waterloo was no small task, but we’re eager for more. The conversation we started at Waterloo is one we hope to continue.