Terra Nova Play, Richmond Canada

Located on the Middle Arm of the Fraser River, Terra Nova Play Experience (TNPE) contains a myriad of landscape types: intertidal foreshore, dykes, sloughs, and past and present agriculture and fishery use. It also boasts a nature preschool and community gardens. TNPE borrows from the character of these existing types. The site aspires to be a place where play provokes curiosity and stirs the imagination; where challenge and risk are embraced, not feared; where stories of the land unfold in a variety of ways to connect children with nature. The project grew from a strong process including response to site master planning, client-consultant collaboration, engagement of citizens of all ages, and a desire to provide challenging, distinctive play opportunities.

To start, Hapa, Lynne Werker and the City designed a unique engagement process that included the “Big Kids”: a team of adult advisors, and the “Little Kids”: students from two local schools. Both groups were asked to explore the idea of play using words, clay models and sketches, to help identify possible design features and themes. Over the course of two-plus years, Hapa and the City of Richmond guided the project through an extensive integrated design process, including research into play design and equipment, collaborative testing and refining of design possibilities, Canadian Standards Association playground compliance assessment, conceptual through detailed design, and construction review. The playground was constructed by special nature-play contractors.

The TNPE is organized into two distinct zones. The “Homestead” is the site of a historic farm house and mature remnant trees, and includes a 10m tall Tower complete with a 6m high stainless steel spiral slide, the Logjam, a climbable timber structure that evokes beach logs and woodpiles, an aerial rope walkway with nine climbing challenges, the spinnery, where kids can spin to their hearts’ content, and a farm-inspired water and sand play area. In contrast, the “Paddock” once housed horses and stables and is thus a much more open play environment. It includes large tandem ziplines, giant swings, a twisting slide down a hillside, a meadow maze with paddock fences and stiles, and a picnic area. Throughout, wood was sourced locally and minimally milled, and traditional timber framing techniques were used to allow for simple connections and relatively easy end of life replacement.

Project Credits
Designer: Hapa Collaborative
Image Credits: Joshua Dool