Monday, January 30, 2012

Thurton Primary School Playground, by its Children, 2011

I really love that I don't have to credit anyone but the 3-6 year old children and staff of the Thurton Church of England Primary School on this post!

Because while I adore custom playgrounds by thoughtful Arch/LArch practices, the notion that a playspace must be designed by a professional (or more often, an equipment company) is one of the worst things that has happened to play.

Looking at Thurton school's playground-creation process, as detailed in a newspaper article showcasing their commendation by both the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the South Norfolk Design Awards, is revealing.

1.  They were inspired by an idea;  in this case the picture book “Window” by Jeanne Baker.  "The children explored what they wanted to see out of their own window and what they wanted to adapt in the local environment."

This is completely different from what usually passes for a child-focused design process, in which children are simplistically asked to draw their ideal playground.  The problem with that is most kids only *know* slides and swings and platforms so that's what they draw.   People (adults, too) only choose from what they know, which is why this blog continually focuses on expanding the 'circle of know' about what a playground is and can be.

2.   Experts were utilized, but were not the primary drivers of the design.  "...the children then wrote their own questionnaires for parents, so they could further narrow down the ideas they had. They then met with landscape architects from Norfolk County Council (NCC) and landscapers to find out if some of their ideas were possible. Finally the children presented their ideas in an extraordinary school assembly to children, parents, governors, staff and the local community. The designs were shown to David Yates at NCC and he took something from each design to make the final plan."

3.  The installed design, though executed by the experts, reflected a genuine commitment to the children's goals rather than limited choices from an equipment list.  

The Thurton playscape, constructed by local firm MEO landscapes, now includes a labyrinth and story-telling area, a tiny hobbit-like house next to an amphitheatre and stage, a 'reflective' space, a secret path, a mound for rolling, tire swings, a playhouse and den-making area, and a 'really deep' sandpit.  ('tis true that most sandpits aren't deep enough for serious digging!).

Such an amazing place to play!
[All Thurton photos by Natasha Lyster]

And for comparison-purposes-only, a 'typical' primary school playground.  Make up your own mind which is good for the kids. 

No comments:

Post a Comment