Our construction team share their insight into the transformation of two outdoor playgrounds for a large school in North London. With the project designed by landscape architect, Katie Staton, we undertook the build, which had to take place in the short timescale of the school holidays last summer.
The two existing playgrounds were tired and in need of refurbishment. The playground for junior school children was dominated by ball games, and so the new design created distinct areas – a space for ball games, but separated by removable fencing to create new areas for climbing and exploring, as well as quieter areas with auditorium seating and playhouses. This really transformed the space – making it more inclusive for all children and adding new learning and play experiences.
The other playground, for Early Years children, was limited in facilities and was previously used as a cut-through for parents rather than a play space for children. This was transformed into a space dedicated for both physical and non-physical play – including the construction of a large wooden climbing frame. Separate areas were then created for exploration and quieter play, including a covered sandpit. The theme of nature runs throughout the two playgrounds, with naturalistic planting and nature-inspired wall art which connects children to a more creative way of play and adds a sense of fun to the space.
The construction involved the demolition of the existing playgrounds and hard landscape. We had particularly stringent building restrictions when working close to the existing trees, with observation from Marcus Foster of Arboricultural Design & Consultancy. The hard landscaping involved constructing brick walls and laying clay pavers and concrete slabs for the paved areas of the landscape. We also installed new and refurbished existing fencing, as well as a new entrance gate to the space. The major items of wooden play equipment, designed to encourage further physical play, were created by Duncan and Grove and required careful installation into the space. The play areas were then covered with artificial turf safer surfacing, whilst shelters and bike shelters were installed in the surrounding areas.
The main challenge of the project was simultaneously completing these two large playgrounds within tight deadlines – and we worked collaboratively with all suppliers and sub-contractors to complete the project on time. The feedback from both parents and children has been fantastic, with one child commenting that, “everyone loves it!”. The parent went on to say, “I think it’s a wonderful message to send to our community that playing, and doing so in a great space, is so important”. We’re delighted with the transformation of the space and seeing the positive impact it has had on the school and the children.