A thousand legged welcome
Behind a high wooden fence in a quiet corner of CERES, director, Nick Curmi, designer, Steve Mushin and a team of carpenters and welders worked busily through the winter on a project that seemed to take on more importance with each week of lockdown.
The team were determined to finish the new Terra Wonder Playspace before restrictions were lifted – it would be their gift for children and carers coming out of months of isolation and lost play time.
In October as cases were getting down to single figures the playspace, which two years earlier had been embraced as an idea by the community and funded through a popular vote, was now achingly close to completion.
Construction had mostly gone to plan, the hardest part, however, had been navigating a unique design using recycled materials and old industrial equipment through a complex web of safety compliance challenges.
Over months of exhaustive back and forth, Curmi and Mushin, with voluntary help from of a group of experienced playground designers and engineers, dragged Terra Wonder over hurdle after regulatory hurdle.
With the project out of funds an approval knockback would mean Terra Wonder sitting for months finished but locked away behind safety barriers.
For a week in October as the final load of mulch was delivered breaths were held before the consulting engineer finally signed off on the playspace.
On November 7th, with restrictions easing, Nick Curmi and Steve Mushin (on Zoom from Wellington) quietly opened Terra Wonder to a steadily growing stream of excited kids.
Early this morning I went for a walk past hearing the raised voices before I saw the faces – about half a dozen kids (dreaded early wakers) with weary parents in tow were clambering overthe giant creature.
One called from inside theiron head, made from a hundred year old Cadbury’s chocolate boiler, out to a friend hanging from a fearsome antennae, once a robot arm on a local car production line.
Above in the millipede’s steel saddle – a steampunk inspired control centre – instructions were shouted to someone inside the slatted macrocarpa body – salvaged from an old farm windbreak in South Gippsland.
With orders received the millipede occupant ran the length of the winding beast squeezing out its bottom, an ingenious arrangement of recycled car tyres, with a delicious eeeeeeewwwhhh!!
The millepede is the playspace centrepiece but there’s much more, a large hilltop hideout made out of old tyres spills out mooring ropes from the Spirit of Tasmania and old rubber bulldozer tracks down the steep slope daring climbers to scale it.
Below the hideout beside the rendered earthbag dome, new terraced sandpits are shaded by a structure covered in sculptures of the kind of microorganisms you might expect to find on a single grain of sand magnified five hundred times.
This is Stage One – Stage Two will bring cocoons in trees connected by aerial walkways, tunnels made from surplus Melbourne Water pipes, a working crane, water play and a transformation of the old train carriage into a spitfire caterpillar/learning space.
The success of the project has kindled the idea of CERES as a sculpture park along with more recycled playfulness spread across the whole park.
Come for a play.