How to use Colour to Inject Life into an Abandoned Landscape
Article by Irene Crowo Nielsen
Hart’s Mill Surrounds, ASPECT Studios, Port Adelaide, SA, Australia.
It is no secret that children (and adults, for that matter) are attracted to bright colors. Did you, for example, know that yellow is the color people most associate with amusement, optimism, gentleness and spontaneity? That is also a description that fits the Hart’s Mill Surrounds, by ASPECT studios in Port Adelaide, perfectly, and what it quickly has come to represent.
But it was not always like this, in fact the historic area around the Hart’s Mill used to be an abandoned, unused, impermeable, contaminated piece of asphalt with weeds growing from the cracks. So how did ASPECT Studios manage to turn this piece of asphalt jungle into an energetic community hub and integrate cultural heritage through interpretive play using the color yellow, and to top it all off; win seven awards…?
Hart’s Mill Surrounds
The Past – Mill
Let us start by taking a trip down memory lane. Hart’s Mill is a prominent landmark in Port Adelaide’s history and unique by way that it was the longest continuously serving flour mill in South Australia (operating from 1855 to 1980). This is also why it was such an important area to reclaim and make available to the public as a part of Adelaide’s history.
The revitalization of the Hart’s Mill focuses on the conservation and re-establishment of an abundant space as an active part of the Port and the broader metropolitan area in Adelaide.
ASPECT Studio was the asked by the government of South Australia to transform the area around the Hart’s Mill buildings. They worked closely with Mulloway Studio, who designed a shelter (which functions as a marketplace today) with reference to the site’s heritage and set out on what was to become an award-winning task.
Concept; a Vibrant, Attractive Public Realm
The urban renewal of the area around Hart’s Mill includes extensive new grassy recreation areas with trees that invites one to stay for a picnic. The trees planted in this area, Urbanite Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica ‘Urbanite’) have a distinctly pyramidal crown and are planted in raised concrete planters two by two to let the visitors have full visibility of the waterfront. If you feel like having a good old barbeque instead of a picnic you can easily withdraw and use the BBQ areas covered by a shelter.
The main attraction of the area is an innovative playground, themed around the site’s flour milling history. You will find reminders of the mill’s rich history spelled out in bright yellow tubular steel scattered throughout the playground. Kids are running around trying to decipher, read, or invent games around these yellow letters that spell out the old mill’s processes: wheat, flour, blend and purify. A clever way to be a reminded of the site’s history and at the same time be a multifunctional space for play, events and markets.
Another key concept relates to the fact that old industrial areas and contaminated soils almost always occur together. Also in this project, there were contaminated soils involved. One of the most important considerations was to minimize ground disturbance in order to manage contamination issues and also to protect archaeological remains. “All external works were constructed on top of the existing ground surface, with trenching being limited to minimal service runs,” ASPECT studios writes on their website. This resulted in raised green platforms designed as vessels containing new park spaces within what is a highly modified and contaminated site.
Materiality; Yellow Enthusiasm
Material selections reflect the area’s industrial heritage. Salvaged materials from local harbour-side demolitions were used in the construction of shelters, seating and planters.
The play space is cleverly designed by only using the bright color yellow in contrast with the rubberized black and grey surface. Together with the blackened timbers, ropes, and silver steel, the playground is making a bold but sophisticated statement. There is variety in the play elements relating to children of all ages. Maybe you’ve always wanted to experience the hamster wheel? Or conquer heights by climbing the 7.5 m tall “Dalben Tower” and then feel the tickle on your tummy when sliding down? Or the adrenaline when you set out on the Flying Fox?
There are raised planters with native grasses and South Australian Bluegum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon) trees popping up around the playground, creating green pockets along with the green recreational platforms.
History as a Magnificent Backdrop
There is no evidence left of an abandoned, unused, impermeable, contaminated piece of asphalt with weeds growing from the cracks. It is, in fact, the total opposite. ASPECT Studios has made a successful, attractive and inspiring playground full of optimism, amusement and spontaneity just like people associate with the color yellow. Kids as well as parents are loving it.
An empty asphalt area has now been turned into an energetic community hub with a prominent piece of Adelaide’s historic buildings creating a magnificent backdrop for life’s simple pleasures. There are Sunday markets and other events already happening. It is a playground that provides the opportunity for creative and co-operative play. It differs, to our relief, from all the multicolored playgrounds out there, by only using yellow as a bold, but sophisticated statement.
Adelaide has, with help from ASPECT Studios, managed to revitalize Hart’s Mill and has reestablished the area as an active part of the Port, which together with the market space, forms a node at the western end of the main wharf promenade.
Full Project Credits For Hart’s Mill Surrounds:
Project Name: Port Adelaide Renewal: Hart’s Mill Surrounds
Location: Port Adelaide, SA, Australia
Budget: $2.1 million
Date of Construction: 2014
Client: Renewal SA
Landscape Architects/Lead Consultant: ASPECT Studios
Collaborators: Mulloway Studio, LUCID Consulting, SMEC Australia, HydroPlan
Photography: Don Brice
Area size: 7100 square metres
2015 Australia Award for Urban Design – Delivered Small Projects (with Mulloway Studio)
2015 AILA SA Awards – Excellence in Design
2015 AIA SA Architecture Awards – Urban Design (with Mulloway Studio)
2015 AIA SA Architecture Awards – The David Saunders Award for Heritage (with Mulloway Studio)
2015 Good Design Award – Architectural Design; Urban Design and Public Spaces
2015 Parks and Leisure Australia (SA/NT) – Award of Excellence in Major Playspace (+0.5mil)
2014 Kidsafe National Playspace Design Awards Highly Commended Award
- Becoming an Urban Planner: A Guide to Careers in Planning and Urban Design by Michael Bayer
- Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature by Douglas Farrs
Article by Irene Crowo Nielsen
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