Newman Senior High School students have embraced an opportunity to play a leading role in the design of a new public space which will enliven an area of East Newman.
The activation of a carpark next to Miners Promise Park will be driven by the ideas and designs of the high school students, who have had strong input into the process under the guidance of local Design and Technology teacher Rosemarie Omo and Ryan Dunham from national multi-disciplinary architecture, interior and urban design firm Hames Sharley.
The initiative is part of the Home in East Newman project which aims to rejuvenate and transform this part of town to make it a safer, more inviting place to live, with more suitable housing and better access to facilities and services.
Improving parks and ensuring activities for young people were both identified as priorities during the engagement process. Miners Promise Park was identified as the first location for a youth-focused improvement.
The students were asked what they wanted in the space, and came up with a potential multisport facility, including a basketball court with designed backboards, handball, scooter and bike tracks and racks, seating, murals and even a bridge over the swale connecting Miners Promise Park to the existing pedestrian network.
Over three weeks, Mrs Omo led the students through the design process using CADD tools and they learnt that effective design processes require collaboration, compromise and teamwork.
Mr Dunham ran a half-day workshop in early December where more detailed aspects were discussed with students, including the practicality of the designs and how to fit them into a real-world situation, taking account of sun angles, where to provide shaded areas and how to incorporate paths.
Mrs Omo said the students were inspired to realise that in this form of urban design it was not necessary to be good at drawing. Design thinking skills start with observation, analysing problems and possibilities, and devising innovative solutions.
“A few students told me that they took their parents to the park and discussed what may take place there,” she said. “Aside from learning how students involve their parents in their class work, the best thing I thought the students learnt is that in design, there will be people you need to work with collaboratively. There are people with ideas, and there are those with skills to execute those ideas, and those who could do both.”
Mr Dunham said there was a conscious effort to take the process of revitalising the carpark step by step to make sure the community was happy with the process.
“This is very much a community-led project. We want to look three months ahead,” he said. “We’ll start with the basketball court and then look at how we can develop the space in a sympathetic considered manner. We want to make sure the local community and kids have ownership of the project and we end up with a social space that they will utilise year round.”
He praised the school for being willing to back the project and allowing students to use their new-found design skills in a real-world setting.
The next step is to formalise the designs so they can be presented to the Home in East Newman Steering Committee when it meets in the new year.