Guest post: plants for natural playscapes

05/09/2012 by

Vince Edwards of James Coles & Sons (Nurseries) Ltd shares a list of species that meet the particular planting requirements of play areas. The plants provide a safe yet interesting backdrop and a floral complement to the various elements of a play scheme.

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Guest post: specifying and laying turf

05/09/2012 by

Adam Pounds of Tillers Turf runs through a simple guide to preparing areas for turf, for landscaping and sports situations, and getting the best results when laying it.

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Transport planning: Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors

27/07/2012 by

The latest publication by Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors (I’DGO), ‘Why does the outdoor environment matter?’, has been added to the online Transport Advice Portal (TAP), a paper-free technical library available for everyone involved in planning, designing and operating road networks.

The four-page booklet summarises findings from both phases of the I’DGO project on older people’s mobility and well-being, and provides key messages for policy makers and professionals, including those working in highways and transportation.

I’DGO is a research project focused on identifying the most effective ways of shaping outdoor environments inclusively. It is run by three academic research centres in Edinburgh, Warwick and Salford, working as a multidisciplinary consortium, supported by partners in industry, government and advocacy.

Guest post: Localising playgrounds

07/06/2012 by

Paige Johnson is the author of the Playscapes blog, which at 80,000 page views per month is the most widely read source of playground design on the web.

Playgrounds can be one of the worst offenders in the struggle to make public spaces locally relevant. Following a standard recipe of ‘kit, fence and carpet’ ensures that a play space could be in Milton Keynes or Madagascar, Swindon or South LA. Without context, who’s to tell?

Adding local context to a playground installation increases community commitment to the space, involves local providers, and is just plain more fun. Localised elements can form the basis for new playground installations, or be added to improve existing ones. Here, examples from my four years of writing about playgrounds at Playscapes illustrate strategies for localising the playground.

1.  Consider topography

Whenever possible, playgrounds should make the ground plane itself part of the play, preserving or reflecting local topographies.

Retaining an existing pile of rubble at a reclaimed industrial site in France allowed this playground by Agence TER to fit into a familiar local site AND be more exciting by hanging off its steep side.

Topographies can be simpler constructions as well: this spiral mound in London, made of turf by Mortar and Pestle Studio, recalls similar Elizabethan garden features. Read the rest of this entry »

Guest post: Why play matters in design

06/06/2012 by

Today’s guest post comes from Cath Prisk, Director of Play England. Play England is the national organisation campaigning for children’s freedom to play. Design and engineering of the spaces and places children grow up have a key role in making sure we reverse the trend that is keeping 70% of our nation’s children locked inside.

“90% of adults played out regularly in their street as children. Nowadays 29% of children aged 7–14 say they don’t play or hang out in their street at all.”

Source: Playday 2010/ ICM Research

If you think about where you live, how often do you see children and young people outside enjoying themselves? Now think about when you were young – how often were you roaming your neighbourhood and playing outside?

There are many reasons why children are less visible in our neighbourhoods, but design of the spaces and travel routes around them is a critical part. Read the rest of this entry »

PlayFair mixing natural play with playground equipment

06/06/2012 by

The fifth annual PlayFair event is due to be held on 19-20 June at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. It is free to attend and will run alongside the BALI landscaping show.

Set up for visitors working in local authorities, education, landscape design, leisure facilities and the private sector, PlayFair 2012 will look at balancing and mixing natural play and fixed playground equipment. Read the rest of this entry »

Designing town centres for walking and belonging

03/05/2012 by

GUEST POST: Agata Szacilowska, Landscape Architect with the Greenspace Development Environmental Services team at North Lanarkshire Council (NLC), describes the design and regeneration of Motherwell’s historic town centre.

In Motherwell Town Centre, NLC aimed to improve the quality, function and appearance of the streets and public areas.

The design was developed through internal and external consultation, and was presented for comments during public displays, on hand delivered leaflets and on the council’s website.

The resulting project involved realigning and resurfacing footways and roads, and installing new street furniture, lighting, street trees and public art.

But its overarching themes were sensitivity to the town’s historic buildings and the movement of people around the public space. Read the rest of this entry »

Traffic management and reinventing wheels

05/04/2012 by

Commentators

At Ecobuild Michael Sorkin talked about designing new cities in the US and in China, where walking radiuses of 10 minutes were being used as a defining characteristic of a healthy and sustainable neighbourhoods.

Elsewhere, Will Self keeps up his ‘psychogeography’ campaign, extolling the benefits and radicalism of travelling by foot:

We understand that to walk the city and its environs is, in a very powerful sense, to use it. The contemporary flâneur is by nature and inclination a democratising force who seeks equality of access, freedom of movement and the dissolution of corporate and state control.

Meanwhile, the economics of having to transport people and goods, and the small matter of pedestrian safety keep other discussions down to earth. Read the rest of this entry »

Ecobuild 2012 – External Works notes

02/04/2012 by

As the dust settles after the 2012 Ecobuild event, here are few observations, in brief, from the External Works corner. Read the rest of this entry »

Natural stone surfacing: balancing acts

09/03/2012 by

The palette of materials for hard surfacing spawns more and more options as construction technologies develop, not least with emerging concrete paving and bound surfacing products. Progress marches on.

But the appeal and effectiveness of natural stone in landscape architecture and construction – hardwearing Yorkstone, sympathetic limestone, fine-grained slate, solid granite – still stand, complemented as well by similar advances in stone manufacturing processes.

One reason for the persistent role of stone is the way that it allows designers, specifiers and contractors to balance competing priorities in projects: the authenticity of heritage styles versus the dynamism of contemporary accents; standing out in new build projects versus blending into restoration work; the civic benefits of pedestrianisation versus the commercial importance of traffic management. Read the rest of this entry »