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Play England


Play England - Making Space to Play is an initiative whose purpose is to ensure that children and young people in England have the space and opportunity to play freely as part of their daily lives - at school and other services, at home, and throughout the public realm.

As part of the initiative, Play England organise the following:

They have also created a number of highly useful resources, including this report written in 2007, Seen and Heard: Reclaiming the public realm with children and young people.

The report stresses the need for children to have access to spaces for play, and that 'children denied space to play are repressed' (Voce, 2007).

Whilst 'play' has taken a backseat to 'training and equipping' children for later life, there is now accumulating evidence and a growing concern that the lack of play spaces is causing real and potential harm to our children.

As Adrian Voce (Director of Play England) says, 'Without regular time, space and permission to play, children are denied the right to be themselves, to follow their own unique agenda. The consequences for their quality of life, health and development - and, by extension, their future life chances too - are serious.'

The report provides background information such as children's health and development needs, issues such as pressures on the built environment and current attitudes towards children and finally some recommendations for example listening to children and collaboration between children and all other parties involved.

A UK initiative promotes improvement of outdoor play spaces for children

Learning through Landscapes, a UK programme shares their passion for creating stimulating outdoor learning and play experiences for children.

Here, you can become a member, find useful information, inspiration and resources. Their values of healthy outdoor play, community inclusion and participation, and promoting an appreciation for nature is wonderfully inspiring. I highly recommend checking it out.

This play space extends from the floor to the wall!

Lena Seow, Vrinda Khanna and Suzan Wines of I-Beam Design came up with this simple but brilliant design for a cafe in in Brooklyn, New York - a wall made of Lego base plates, allowing children to interact with their surroundings, every part of the space becoming a space for play.

Wines explains that children can build with or against gravity and that the child’s ability to impact the basic architecture of the play area by building on the wall is a large part of the appeal. “Everything a child builds becomes an integral part of the play space architecture until a new construction is made by someone else,” she says.

Other vertical play surfaces at Café Boobah include a huge floor to ceiling abacus, a chalkboard wall, a magnetic wall and a wall for drawing on with crayons.

Via Babyology.

A fun and playful design for a kindergarten in Tromso, Norway which utilises flexible 'playing walls'

This kindergarten designed by 70ºN Arkitektur is interesting for its approach of flexible and varied transitory 'playing walls', which the children can interact with in a number of ways - drawing, hiding, moving, climbing....

Each side caters for a different 'activity' - shelves, drawers, blackboards, climbing partitions, puppet show sections...

The use of natural materials, varied sized openings and complementary colours creates a child friendly design.

The interior 'play walls' are designed to be moved, to allow the space to be used in a number of ways.

The centre takes into consideration the "activation" of all surfaces - natural light wells, artificial lights, varying surface materials, different shaped cut-out extrusions....

This approach to designing an early education centre shows the opportunity present for a modular 'set of parts' for retrofitting existing centres - enabling flexible components that cater for different functions, activities and experiences.

Via 70ºN.

A competition proposal for a kindergarten in Riga which utilises a large park space connecting to the wider urban surroundings

This proposal for a new kindergarten in Riga, Europe by ARHIS Architecture is interesting not so much for it's design (the rendered design images really quite awful hence I am not showing them), but for its idea of classroom spaces wrapping around a large park. Providing children with a constant visual and physical connection to nature and also connecting to the nearby structure. The diagrams below show this scheme:

The idea here is of mixing public and private space, and using the early learning centre as a way for providing public park and landscaped 'play' and recreation space, thus improving the urban environment.
Looking at pedestrian flows and making connections with the wider surroundings.

It is a shame that the structure is so static and institutional standing in such contrast to the surrounding free-flowing landscaped park.

Via DesignBoom.

Austrian students design an early learning centre for a local South African community

34 students from Innsbruck University built this state-owned preschool building in 2006 with the help of local workers. The complex consists of two classrooms, kitchen, sanitary installation and an outdoor playground.

Embedded in a colourful landscape, adventure and curiosity are encouraged in an experimental space comprising of a number of different and undetermined zones.

A simple steel frame and wrinkly-tin sheet sits over the buildings, unifying the different buildings, and providing a sheltered are for learning and play. Running down to the ground, it allows for coloured blocks to be inserted through the skin of the structure, for children to climb. The  metal is also reminiscent of the type of materials used in the township and ad hoc housing, making the children feel at home.

A path meanders across the site via shady spaces, dwelling places and patches of vegetation towards the building in the centre and continues through it to the woodland beyond.

Inside, the wall design allows niches, retreats and elevated landings for the children to interact with.

Varying atmospheres and moods are created by well directed lighting through regular openings.


Layers of structure


Via Imagine School Design.

Mana Tamariki a Maori language school reflects its local and cultural context winning recognition


This design for a Maori language immersion school in Palmerston North, New Zealand designed by Tennet + Brown Architects was shortlisted in last years 'Making Space: architecture and design for children and young people' competition and conference, which was organised by Children in Scotland and promoted innovation, creativity and sustainability in design for children aged 0-18 years.

The Mana Tamariki school, which caters for children from 0 to 18 years was recognised for it's design reflecting and responding 'at many levels to its local context and culture' (Making Space 2010).

The architects consulted with the staff, leadership group and children through meetings and workshops, the local authority, community, government and artist Bob Jenke, which resulted in a greater understanding in Maori spatial and design principles.

The design was also recognised in the 2010 NZ Institute of Architecture Awards for how they listened and understood their clients. The journey from young to old is handled with the spirit of whanau, with a sense of trasnparency and of being a part of a nurturing community, sheltered under a calm, 'cloaking' roof form (NZIA).

Massey University Maori Visual Arts professor Bob Jahnke advised the architects on Maori design concepts, as well as working on sculptures and the entrance gate.

An indoor 'nest' allows children to play above adults heads.

A glass entrance wall coveys transparency welcoming passersby. "We want the community to see they're just kids in here", says acting principle Penny Poutu.

Photo's from Tennet + Brown.

An early learning centre in Austria connects beautifully with its natural environment

This 'kindergarten' designed by GOYA (Group Of Young Architects) in Guntramsdorf, Austria nestles itself among chestnut trees and celebrates an open design connecting with the natural environment, organised as a series of structures, each providing a visual connection to the outdoors.

I love the boardwalks and sandpits as the outdoor landscaping adding natural diversity for play, as well as the natural birchwood cladding.

Between each structure is a shared, communal, multi-purpose foyer, connecting each room. Moveable walls between the gym and the foyer allows for the option of one large space.

Via DesignBoom.


site by Ana Degenaar