Award for Excellence 2019, Tension Structures – Less than 250sqm

The project was to design and install three shade structures at a new playground in Ryde Sydney.

The structures are 38sm each to total  114sm.

The purpose of the project was to provide rain protection, functionality, aesthetics and shade coverage over a new outdoor playground and seating/BBQ area.

The custom designed structures are tailored to suit the client’s space. An architect’s concept was turned into reality. The client presented a conceptual “mud map” design from which our company interpreted into a unique design, fabrication and installed of three shade structures. The client had some strict wants, namely:

  • Irregular hexagonal roof frame to match a ground pattern layout of the playground
  • Waterproof.
  • Minimal pitch of 7-degrees. Heights of 4m to the rear and 3m to the front over a span of 8300.
  • Anti-graffiti paint treatment.

The client, like many other councils is developing some magnificent playgrounds  incorporating cutting edge shade structures, gardens, play equipment,  skate bowls,  seating etc. Communities are drawn to playgrounds which become focal points for gatherings and play. Clearly Council is seen to be supporting their community with such initiatives.

This is a one-off design. 

Though the PVDF structures are irregular they mimic the shapes of playground footprint. There are areas of uniformity apparent throughout the playground.

The central mast of each structure is quite striking. The horizontal rafters of the ring beam are steeply radiused down to form a five posted central mast. This unique and very attractive design element was pitched to the client and supported for the design.

 There were challenges to overcome. 

  1. Shaping the rafters and posts. Every angle in the hexagon shape is unique. Angles went from acute to obtuse due to the 7 degree slope of the structure. However the five rafters had to then vertically slot into a central mast which too was made up of five posts. This repetition of elements in lots of five works very effectively.
  2.  Tensioning of the PVDF over the irregular hexagonal rim was a challenge.  The fabric had to line up perfectly on the rim or it would not work. This is a patterning skill. The PVDF fabric was tensioned and secured over the rim using weights and then fixed to tracking on the frame. The weights used came from a well-stocked home gymnasium.
  3. The third challenge was to use high quality materials and processes.  We chose a PVDF with a 20-year warranty. Hot dipped galvanising of steel inside and out was used for long term rust protection.  The paint treatment then applied over the galvanising included anti-graffiti additives.

Knowledge and confidence in the materials helped identify the best materials to use.

The client is elated. The project exceeded all expectations. 

It was a testament to the beauty of the structure when all the "tradies" working on-site who work on playgrounds all the time, took time out from their work to photograph and admire the tension structures.

We think outside the box and relish the opportunity to design one-off projects for clients prepared to take a challenge. From a photo of a simple   design and a mud map we worked with the client to arrive at a much more evolved and stylised design  that looks fabulous and still fitted into their budget.