BLENNZ Homai Campus
The Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ) introduced a new outdoor learning space and playground at their Homai Campus in early 2015, the opening ceremony providing a fitting introduction to an important resource.
The playground was carefully designed to build independence for sight-impaired children while ensuring their health and wellbeing was protected and nurtured.
The outdoor space needed to support the development of key competencies from within the New Zealand curriculum while enabling visually impaired children to develop the confidence from being physically active. Safety and protection from serious injury was integral to this development and selection of products was a very careful process.
“They needed a space where the children could explore, experience, socialise and be challenged,” says Numat’s Eugénie Wycherley. “We worked closely with Jill Rice of Get Outside Landscape Architecture to deliver the right result.”
“It was an unusual project that needed special care, definitely,” says Jill. “However we wanted the students to experience the same risks, and manage these risks, just like everyone else.”
“Making it clear where the paths and hazards were was a primary focus. Special care was taken to lay things out in a logical way without making it too boring.”
“We learned as we went too,” she adds. “We needed to put ourselves in their shoes. For instance, straight lines are easier to navigate – you come to a corner and you can remember where it is.”
Providing changes in texture and colour were also important approaches for Jill, who says the, “Numat turf and matting was a big help here, allowing blind students to feel the change with their canes and low vision students to quickly identify new areas according to changes in colour.”
In a sometimes challenging project the robust working relationship between the project team helped deliver the best of results.
“We are extremely proud of our work at BLENNZ,” Eugénie says. “This was a unique project with some interesting challenges for our team – including the integration of a number of our exclusive products.”
These products included the seamless Pour‘n’Play, a poured rubber system using 100 percent colour TPV (a thermoplastic elastomer) and PermaPlay – the realistic artificial turf installed over DuraSoft rubber shockpads.
“We normally have timber or other construction materials to use for edging. Here we needed to combine thin turf and thick rubber seamlessly and with longterm durability,” says Eugénie. “Timelines were important too. We needed to get everything delivered and installed quickly and correctly.”
Through a carefully scoped project there were lots of considerations and modifications. “Numat listened,” says Jill. “They were willing to make changes several changes and they hung in there through a long design process.”