Footscray Follies

Client: City of Maribyrnong
Location: Footscray, Victoria
Co-ordinates: 37°47’58.4”S 144°54’24.0”E
Status: Concept
Year: 2017
Project Team: BoardGrove Architects
Images: BoardGrove Architects
Words: Brodie Norris

children’s play  folly  landmark  landscape  pavilion  public space  recreation  

Imagining: A little girl in bright yellow gumboots approximately two sizes too big pushed her sister on a swing. The swing dangled from a structure the colour of fairy floss. It reminded Margaret of a flamingo. In colour, but also in character. Fine, elegant legs that transformed into flamboyant arches overhead. Magnificent, delightful and absurd in equal measure.

At night Margaret had seen how the swing transforms into a beacon. Delicate beams of light filtering through its perforated crown. Surprising and exciting, day and night.

Grasping the chain tighter than necessary, with knuckles that tell-tale shade of bluish-white, the girl in the swing’s seat felt she was flying. So high she might keep soaring and complete a spectacular rotation around the structure. ‘What would it feel like to be upside down?’, she wondered. ‘Probably a bit like an extra fast cartwheel’, the little girl concluded. But as she became convinced she would make it all the way around this time, the weight of gravity kicks in and she falls, just as fast, backwards and into her sister’s outstretched hands for another attempt.

Nearby two boys – best friends – were sliding in tandem down the blue slide of a playhouse with a scaly exterior. As soon as his feet hit the ground, the boy with the polka dot beanie chased the boy with the striped jumper. The boys clamour through a small, arched doorway and into an enchanted grotto. The small opening gives way to a large, multilevel space; the ultimate cubby. Back into the cubby house they clamoured for another tumble down the slide. Even after the sixteenth or seventeenth circuit, neither boy seemed to be tiring of their game. ‘They’ll sleep well tonight’, Margaret thought.

At the top of a tower a couple admired the expansive view. They watched trains passing and wondered about the passengers’ lives. They pointed to houses they wished they could afford. Meanwhile, a group of five children race up the ladder to the top of the tower. Weaving around the couples’ legs towards the fireman’s pole, the children spin and squeal as they descend. The couple, so intently focused on each other, seem oblivious to this commotion. Yet a subtle awkwardness between the two betrayed the infancy of their relationship. ‘Second or third date. Fourth, tops’, Margaret thought. Perhaps it was her bright orange acrylic necklace, laser-cut into the shape of a lobster. The way the lobster’s claws clapped together every time she moved. Or maybe it was his unwieldy curls and moss green velvet blazer. But there was something about the two of them that made Margaret think it could work.

Looking up, Margaret took in the sight of the bright yellow pavilion circling overhead – a local landmark. Like the pink swing, the blue cubby and the green tower, this shelter was curvaceous and playful. Sculptural, with scalloped petals opening up to the sky. Like a sunflower. She admired how it framed sections of the cobalt midday sky. Light filtered through the yellow canopy, creating golden beams in the air and patterns of light and shade at Margaret’s feet.

As she looked up, an eclectic-looking gentleman walked past and nodded at Margaret from under his brown top hat. The bicycle he wheeled sparkled in the low winter sun, bedazzled with thousands of diamantes and decorated with a few too many fake flowers.

‘Is there a carnival in town?’, Margaret wondered to herself, ‘a festival, perhaps?’