Meriden girls design award-winning public space

13 November 2020

Thoughtfully-designed public spaces have the power to draw people in, improving their mood, levels of physical activity and connection with the community. Year 10 students Molly Flanagan and Bianca Hales have been recognised by planning-industry experts for the quality of the outdoor space they submitted to the Public Space Ideas Competition. The girls won first place in the Children and Young People Awards section for “A Bushland Space”, parkland they envisioned would provide equitable access to all community members and opportunities for intentional connections with nature.

The competition invited people to submit ambitious designs that reimagined public spaces across greater Sydney. The judging panel included thirteen design professionals, including NSW Government Architect, Abbie Galvin; National President and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, Shaun Walsh; and Deans from the University of Sydney, UNSW and UTS.

Ms Ingrid Schwartz, Coordinator of Lateral Learning – STEM and teacher of Digital and Creative Arts, said she was proud to see the girls pursue their passion, taking ownership of their learning by seeking out new challenges.

“Congratulations to Molly and Bianca! It is exciting to see students using the principles and drawing skills learnt in class with confidence and success in a public forum,” she said.

Molly and Bianca said they so enjoyed their Term 2 Design and Technology assessment, which required them to design a rooftop garden, that they were keen to use what they learnt on another project. When Molly came across the state-based competition, they knew they found their next opportunity.

“To create our design, we looked at other parks and bushland that utilised great planning,” Bianca said.

“We considered how purposeful planning had made those spaces welcoming and usable for communities and we tried to achieve the same goals with our own new design. We met every Monday throughout Term 3 to brainstorm, research and collaborate and came up with a design that met our environmental, practical and aesthetic goals.”

Bianca said public spaces are the beating heart of our communities and ensuring they are well-planned and cared for is essential to building more sustainable, liveable cities.

“If we don’t see value in public places, they can deteriorate and become wasted space,” she said.

“By designing them well, we can have a positive impact on people, giving them safe places through which to move, stimulating places to play and calming places to relax.”

The girls’ design is intended to engage children, in particular, by encouraging them to develop a connection to nature. “A Bushland Experience” equitably accommodates wheelchairs and pushbikes and paths are intentionally curved to direct visitors’ attention to surrounding bushland, creating a sense of an urban sanctuary that promotes physical and mental wellbeing. Streams serve as both playgrounds and irrigation systems and seating is spread among the greenery of native plants.

See a full-sized image of Molly and Bianca’s design and read their design rationale here.