Shared, Communual, Playable Spaces

Hackney Homes

Hackney Learning Trust is the education and play service provider for the London Borough of Hackney. With funds from Pathfinder, the Learning Trust commissioned PLAYLINK to create shared, playable spaces on a number of open spaces owned and managed by Hackney Homes.

Project Background

PLAYLINK is a multi-faceted independent play and informal leisure consultancy working in the areas of design, planning, policy, strategy, local engagement, fund-raising and organisational development. PLAYLINK promotes, and designs to the ‘village green’ idea i.e. creating spaces that prompt and allow informal sociability across generations.

Design Process

PLAYLINK offer local authorities and housing providers a 'Design for Play' service which uses Landscape Architects and play specialists to undertake projects from concept to completion. The approach, which engages local communities and other stakeholders in the design of playable spaces, is outlined below:

Engagement: PLAYLINK bring together local and professional experts in a shared learning exercise. It is important to bring people of all ages together so people have an opportunity to listen to and understand each other's perspectives.

Design brief: A brief that outlines the shared vision for the project and its aims is agreed with the client/stakeholder. This includes general information about issues relating to risk as well as site specific information.

Sketch design: This will reflect the ideas and aspirations outlined in the brief. A further engagement activity is useful at this point to ensure the design adequately responds to local needs. It is important to recognise the expertise of the design professional as well as the expertise of local people who know what it it is like to live in the area day-to-day.

Sign off and design development: The sketch design is agreed with the client taking into consideration long-term management implications of the space. Following client sign off, a more detailed design development is carried out.

Tender process and contract administration: PLAYLINK undertake the tendering on behalf of the client and produce a tender report. The contract is appointed by the client and contract administration is overseen by PLAYLINK.

Frampton Park

The Frampton Park Estate extends for many acres from Well Street to Mare Street in Hackney, East London. The estate consists of post-war medium and high-rise blocks comprising 1160 properties which are home to a large number of children and young people.

Local residents identified a suitable space between Fairchild House and Forsyth House that was previously a green amenity space which was under-used. The space was transformed into a new garden which features a sand pit, landscaped mounds and boulders, climbing trees and a net swing, plus new planting and trees throughout. The space has become a valuable and well used space for children and adults of all ages.  

Impact:

  • Communal, non segregated, playable space has enabled informal socialising.
  • Increased use of space by people of all ages.
  • Improved local environment in close proximity to people's homes.
  • Residents report appreciating having something pleasant to overlook.

Frampton Park Play Garden, named by the residents, was delivered by Bernard Spiegal, Rachel Mooney and Phil Doyle, PLAYLINK Associates.

For more information visit the PLAYLINK website.

Frampton Park before.

Frampton Park after.

Lessons Learnt:

  • Set realistic and appropriate timescales which recongnise constraints of external funding and allow adequate time for design and implementation.
  • Recognise design as a legitimate cost.
  • Meaningful engagement with local people is more effective than formulaic consultation.
  • Resist responding only to those who who speak the loudest.
  • Create a culture for experimentation e.g with sand and water 'let's try this and if it doesn't work out over a year, we'll change it.'
  • Understand and value the role of seating (not only benches) in creating places that encourage informal sociability.
  • Start with a presumption that fencing is not required for playable space or play areas.
  • Long term care: consider ‘maintenance’ questions from the perspective of ‘good gardening’, part of the process of nurturing valued spaces.

Project budget:

Frampton Park Play Garden cost £50,000.

Funders:

Pathfinder funding.