Kilburn Grange Park Adventure Playground, designed by erect architecture and constructed by contractor Kier Wallis on behalf of client Borough Council of Camden, scooped both a RIBA award and an International Children’s Making Space Award.
RIBA said what distinguished the project “is its ambition to challenge and rethink the health and safety preconceptions that surround children’s playgrounds, most obviously characterised by the ubiquitous use of ‘bouncy tarmac’.
“Instead of approaching the project from a standpoint of risk aversion, architect and client have adopted one of risk benefit, whereby the learning benefits to children during supervised play of encountering reasonable degrees of risk – including fire and water – outweigh the potential dangers.”
“This imaginative thinking has produced a visually, physically and educationally stimulating series of play structures that are characterised by their extensive use of reclaimed and recycled materials.”
The £976,000 scheme, which took a year to make, was built following extensive engagement with and consultation with children. During a series of workshops erect architecture introduced the youngsters to playing with natural materials and taught them about structural principles, which they tested on simple large-scale models, making propositions for playground structures.
The site has a wealth of very different mature trees and it is the remainder of a Victorian Arboretum. The trees made the story. The overarching theme was playing in and around trees.
The play centre is a timber frame building. The undulating biodiversity roof is a
natural extension of the landscape, which dominates the scheme.
elaborating further the existing theme of trees and their manufacturing process.
The internal play space is a ‘tree room’ dominated by a large column, which
acts as a tree trunk from which all beams branch off. The building is timber clad internally and externally.
The undulating biodiversity roof is a natural extension of the landscape, which dominates the scheme. The roof overhangs in the south-western area to formulate the entrance and create a large canopy protecting outdoor play. The canopy is supported by natural tree columns. It frames views and embraces the landscapes. The external timber cladding is sawn larch, contrasting the smooth touch of internal lining.
Sustainability was a key factor in the design of the building and the landscape, but also in integrating measures for the children to learn about sustainable living. The project encourages sustainable behaviour through growing and planting areas, rainwater collection and habitat creation.
The play centre is also a short breaks centre for SEN children. It accommodates
facilities such as a hygiene room and a fully accessible kitchen to allow for overnight stays.
The playground design followed the Play for England guidance for natural play. The target age group for the playground is 8-13 years.
The Children’s Making Space award is given every 5 years (awarded in 2010 in this case). by Children in Scotland (supported by the Scottish Government).
erect architecture is an award winning team of architects led by Barbara Kaucky and Susanne Tutsch, with projects ranging from architecture to public space design to different kinds of interiors.
APES contribute to project’s success
APES (Adventure Playground Engineers Ltd) have worked closely with erect Architecture since the design stage of the project by providing source materials (previous APES playground builds). APES are proud to have been involved in the project, and to have built such innovative and exciting play structures which complement the beautiful building at Kilburn Grange Adventure Playground. The company is delighted the site has now won the Royal Institute of British Architects’ award.
APES is dedicated to being an environmental low-impact construction company and use as little digging equipment and heavy machinery as possible. The company also avoid using concrete and aim for minimal ground disturbance. APES are expert in the manual handling of large timbers and dab hands at using block-and-tackle lifting gear (a practice that is rarely used these days).
The firm continues to innovate in the use of recycled materials, either sourced from old playgrounds or the discards of general construction sites. They are expert at finding the play value in all sorts of things and are currently recycling materials from the Olympic Park. The Kilburn Grange project took around four months to complete and cost £80,000 for the play structures.
APES has a close working relationship with erect Architecture and has just completed another successful public park project at Clapton Common in Hackney. They are currently working in partnership to develop new innovative projects.