One-Star Certified Pilot Project

Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Project Size: 4.25 acres
Project Type: Open Space - Park
Site Context: Urban
Former Land Use: Greyfield
Terrestrial Biome: Temperate Broadleaf & Mixed Forests
Budget: $3.5 million
photo by: James Corner Field Operations

Project Overview

The Woodland Discovery Playground was the first project to be constructed within Shelby Farms Park as a comprehensive plan to convert its 4,000 acres into a major public landmark and defining destination in Memphis, Tennessee. The Master Plan calls for the transformation of the park into a leading-edge, international model for sustainable design and management practices. The Woodland Discovery Playground was launched by these ambitious goals and reflects sustainable practices in all aspects of its design, construction, operations, maintenance, and approach to outdoor play.

The new Woodland Discovery Playground shapes an environment that allows for change, transformation, and growth; that reflects theories about how children learn, develop, and play; and that meaningfully engages with the entire Memphis community.

Regional Context

The site for the Woodland Discovery Playground is situated on approximately four upland acres that are marked by an existing 29 year old play area and edged by woodland that has been overtaken by Chinese privet. The design of the playground captializes on its location with a woodland restoration project and significant new native plantings that enmesh the play space with its surroundings.

SITES Features and Practices

The overall organizational device for the Playground is an arbor planted with native woody trees and vines that link and frame a series of six outdoor play rooms. These topographically rolling and scalloped spaces offer a rich series of play experiences that encourage outdoor discovery, and maximize spatial and sensory experiences while specifically targetting children's different ages, developmental abilities, and interests.

As a new kind of outdoor play space and a precedent for sustainable park design, the scope of the project reached beyond its boundaries with a larger site restoration initiative that included the planting of over 80 new native trees, 24,000 square feet of Chinese privet eradication, 39,250 square feet of diverse, locally adapted, native understory establishment, erosion control, and a soil management plan that demanded the sensitive care, preservation, and amendment of exisiting soils. Enmeshing the play space with its larger surroundings has helped to promote the idea of discovery, maximize sustainabiltiy awareness and education, and cultivate healthy children's development in a supportive environment.

Project Team

James Corner Field Operations
Lead Landscape Architect and Project Manager0

Shelby Farms Park Conservancy
Client and Owner

General Contractor

JPA, Inc.
Local Landscape Architect

Pickering, Inc.

Pine & Swallow Environmental
Soil Scientist

Dr. Allan E. Houston

Chris Crosby

Hall, Blake & Associates, Inc.
Geotechnical Engineering

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