Our Events

AKL Placemaking Week 2018.

Take a sensual walk around the Japanese Garden.

December 5, 2019 / Yana Papaya / 2 comments

Words & event by Yana Papaya

Edited by Liesha Ward Knox

Photography by Liesha Ward Knox, Tanya Perova, Brick Content

The biggest lesson for me this year was to introduce myself to the concept of placemaking and understand that I AM A PLACEMAKER. Surely I can relate to MANY other titles too. Fifth Element. Storyteller. Community Builder. Experiential Marketer. Arts Practitioner. Music Lover. Public Speaker. Events Organiser. Team Leader. Creative Soul. The list goes on and on. That’s the key challenge of being a passionate person.

However, whenever someone asked me what I was doing professionally, I always struggled to highlight just one thing. I know what I am good at and I know what brings me joy but by saying that I was doing only this or that, I felt like I neglected another creative part of mine. Maybe it’s a part of the human nature but none of those terms (apart from Fifth Element) could truly embody the set of souls’ values, human passions, and creative outlets that personally me and my/the Papaya Stories project stand for.


When I started working on the Silent Disco Citywalk project, various people started to make comments about my new and unique approach to the Placemaking. The more I read about the concept, the better I understood that it was my JAM. My favourite strawberry jam. So that’s my first favourite thing about the Placemaking. It makes me feel like I found the place where I belong.

My second favourite thing about the Placemaking is that the potential approaches to solve problems, improve the environment and reshape the public spaces are endless. The abundance of creative diversity excites me because there are no limitations. Yesterday your approach to the placemaking could be a treasure hunt, today it is an immersive theatre activation, tomorrow – a food festival. To find your approach to the placemaking, start with doing some research about the place, learn how it has been used or not used, study the audience, their habits, behavioural patterns (that’s where my marketing background comes in handy), think of the community needs and dreams. Eventually, the right Placemaking idea will come to the surface.

Finally, the Placemaking community is a gathering of beautiful like-minded people who breathe the same values and understand the significance of feeling connected to the place (big or small). Together they are keen to make the world a better place.

PapayaStoriesTeam-Japanese Garden-Placemaking06

Toby from The Open Fort is one of them. He introduced me to the idea of the Placemaking Week 2018 and invited me to become the Place Leader. Feeling honoured and Inspired by one of Jim Carrey’s movie characters I said “Yes” and that’s how I ended up being a part of the new adventure. I created a badass team of my own whom I made love to for the last month. As a result, our baby was born –  the idea of amplifying the beauty of the Japanese Garden (a hidden gem in Henderson, Auckland) by setting up an interactive stress-free zone during the Tamaki Makaurau Placemaking Week 2018.

There are so many cool spaces, areas around Auckland that people simply don’t know about. We go to the events that we find online and go to something our friend spoke about. We lose the desire to go out and discover new things on our own and we can find lots of excuses to tell ourselves why we are doing it. We perform the same route – home-work-home on a daily basis leaving only a bit of time to experience a sense of adventure and exercise whether early in the morning or late in the evening. It’s challenging to break free from old patterns. You simply don’t know where to start. Here are some ideas. Changing your routine. Try a new route to work: instead of going by car, hop on a train or a bus. Maybe you can cycle to work? And when you have time on the weekend, go outdoors and walk around your neighbourhood, explore the corners, parks, public spaces, and new cafes. You will be surprised about what you can find around the corner.



One evening last summer my partner and I went on a short bike ride around Henderson. We didn’t follow the GPS, we let our curiosity guide us. Cycling through the office buildings in Henderson Valley we noticed the cherry blossom trees. As we moved closer the whole beauty of the Japanese Garden came upon us. We couldn’t believe our eyes. We couldn’t believe that this place exists in Henderson. Hidden away from the human eye. Being a minute from The Henderson Train Station, the Japanese Garden represents a true quintessence of discovery. It opens up its beauty only to those who are READY to see it. Those who wander are not lost, they are about to find a missing puzzle to their soul.

When Toby told me that it would be amazing to activate the local space during the Placemaking Week, the idea of doing something magical in the Japanese Garden was clear to me. Besides, I was excited to show this place to my team and think of the creative ways to let the wider community know about this spot.


The idea of creating an interactive stress-free zone came to me primarily because of its location. It is situated in the middle of the office hub, a minute away from the Henderson town centre and railway station. The Japanese Garden sits in the middle of the “home-work-home” route that can be easily ignored rather than being celebrated. The levels of stress and mundane routine occupies every second person, so they just pass the garden by without engaging with space. We wanted to change that and help people to connect and relax by celebrating what the garden already has to offer.



The Japanese Garden is a sacred beauty on its own. Our vision wasn’t about creating something brand new rather amplifying the existing goodness that this place has to offer. The conceptual foundation of the stress-free zone is based on human senses and using the garden gifts to actualise this or that sense. Therefore we came up with an idea of exploring the garden through the Sensual Walk.

We designed a Site Map, marked areas in the garden where this or that sense can be easily activated. We wrote down the instructions on the back of the map how people can experience the sense and garden differently.

There is a Vision Interactive Zone that invites people to watch their reflection and look inside.


There is a Touch Interactive Zone that is a great relaxing spot full of tactile pleasure (just touch the long grass or press hard stress-free balls) and soulful books.




There is a Smell Interactive Zone that calms you down from within with the help of essential oil aroma.


There is a Hearing Interactive Zone that encourages you to be still and listen to the outside world.



There is an Intuition Interactive Zone where the tree of wisdom blossoms. Each note hides an inspiring message inside it.



We also have a DIY zone where visitors can learn how to make the origami crane. This zone is also used for our daily workshops – calligraphy, sound & movement and silent disco meditation – that we had lined-up during the week.




Decorating the space with our creative minds and efficient hands is one part of the story. Letting people know about the garden is the hardest part. So we made some cherry blossom signs on the ground that lead them to the garden.


We dressed up as fairies, wearing All White. We danced around the area with the pink ribbon wands feeling like we are a part of the Grand Opening of the Summer Olympic Games.




By getting the attention of hard-working strangers, giving them the maps, spreading the love about the garden, we hope to convert them into the Garden Lovers who can experience the true meaning of Zen in everyday life. And who knows maybe it’s only the beginning of our stress-free venture.


Keen to repeat the same experience or set up a stress-free zone in your local community? Corporate environment? Get in touch with us papayastories@gmail.com to discuss it further.

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