A school wall which aims to widen boundaries

A two metre high boundary wall contains energetic primary schoolers (under sevens) at St Andrews College in Christchurch. But this wall is far more than a stack of concrete blocks.  Crammed with as many “play value” features as possible it has climbing grips, a chalkboard, sand play equipment and retains an edible garden.

“We’ve used the strength of the wall for activating it in a variety of ways,” says the landscape architect responsible for the project, Adrian Taylor from Jasmax. “It’s main function is to serve as a boundary wall but we’ve used Firth’s honed blocks from their Architectural 20 series for a high end finish and hung play equipment on it.”

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When developing the new play area for St Andrews’ Stewart Junior Centre Jasmax was asked to ensure it was unique, innovative, and maximises play value, Taylor says.

Part of the wall is beside the playground which has wet pour surfacing similar to that used in the Margaret Mahy playground in Christchurch. It’s brightly coloured rubber-like granules are bound together with a resin. “Quite graphic, but it has absorbency which means we could have climbing grips so kids could traverse along that bit of the wall,” he says.

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Rounded boulders from the Kaikoura region, honed naturally as they’ve tumbled down river have been placed around the next section of the wall. Children can sit on the boulders while writing on the chalkboard, which is made from laser cut sheet steel. It’s in the silhouette profile of a stand of Kahikatea trees.  “If you can imagine there’s a whole lot of trunks and we have this big canopy form and that’s where the kids write on and that’s attached to the wall.”

Shade sails which shelter the sandpit are supported by the wall. And for those fancying a bit of digging, a crane arm with a pulley system and bucket can pour sand into either a sand silo or mill wheel - also on the wall.

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Finishing off the wall is an edible garden with blackcurrants, redcurrants, boysenberries, raspberries and blueberries. Space has been left between these for the children to plant whatever they like. “It’s about encouraging ownership of the garden, outdoor learning and sustainability values,” Taylor says.


He’s hoping the finished product will scoop him another prize in the Firth “Full of Surprises” competition at the NZILA conference next month. Last year he won the Firth Urban Garden award, in which he collaborated with the concrete company to create a exposed aggregate mix, matching colours in a staff cafeteria courtyard project to the interiors.

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If you think you have a winning design don't forget this year's Firth NZILA competition for "City/Taone" Conference 2018

  • Firth’s Full of Surprises is a fun competition providing Landscape Architects an opportunity to showcase their best landscaping project from 2017.
  • Two winners will each take away a $500 Visa Prezzy Card, and will also feature in the Firth newsletter, on their website and Facebook page.
  • The 2018 NZILA Firth conference focusses on Places and Spaces; Culture and Community; Water and Eologies; and Movement. Seeking to define the elements that are necessary, possible and inspirational for our cities today, and in the future.
  • In keeping with the conference “Cities/Taone” theme the two competition categories are Urban Landscape and Small Project.  
  • You can find out the criteria, dates and terms and conditions here