Posts Tagged ‘Sport and play’

Guest post: plants for natural playscapes


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.



Guest post: Localising playgrounds


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. (more…)

Guest post: Why play matters in design


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. (more…)

PlayFair mixing natural play with playground equipment


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. (more…)

Playgrounds and “the real world”


The Playscapes blog is always readable and eye-catching (“because it’s difficult to find non-commercial playground information”). In this post there are pictures and words, a meditation on incorporating “real things” into playgrounds.

Landscape+Urbanism covers the Dallas project, The Park. Whereas Playscapes talks about the real world butting into children’s play areas, The Park envisions discovery parks, playgrounds and kite-flying in the middle of the city, set on a capped freeway.

A final mashup. If you thought that arch-Modernism and child’s play weren’t a great fit, you might have been right: Inhabitots (courtesy of Inhabitat) features “Eames House” Alphabet Blocks.

ESI references:

Wembley turf


The turf at Wembley Stadium has been criticised by players, managers, commentators and groundsmen this week, after a weekend of FA Cup semi-finals that were characterised by a loose, slippery surface.

Portsmouth benefited when they beat Tottenham on Sunday. Defender Michael Dawson slipped, and Portsmouth striker Frederic Piquionne pounced on the loose ball and scored.

What is the problem?
The Times says the Wembley pitch appears to have drainage problems, making it spongy on the surface but too hard beneath. Pressure caused by intensive use compacts the soil, which reduces aeration and harms drainage.

The pitch has has been relaid 10 times since the stadium opened in 2007. While this is means steady repeat business for sports turf suppliers and installers, it does not give as stable a surface as, say, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, which was seeded in the arena is reinforced with articifial fibres from Desso Sports Systems.

Why is this happening?
Although the stadium was designed as England’s showpiece football stadium, the need to recoup the cost of the project has meant that it is a multi-use facility, with other sports such as rugby league, rugby union, American Football events there. There have even been motorsport events, with a temporary tarmac surface being laid over the turf, as well as several concerts that also require temporary surfacing.

Former groundsman Dave Saltman criticised Wembley’s heavy events schedule on the state of the pitch and on, Everton head groundsman Bob Lennon agreed: “The stadium is used as a multi-function venue, and so you will have a multi-function pitch,” he said. The Emirates is a new stadium, like Wembley, but that is probably the best surface in the world. The difference is that nobody so much as walks on that pitch without the manager’s say-so.”

Wembley stadium

How can it be remedied?
The Sports Turf Research Institute has been employed to try to resolve the pitch problem but The Telegraph accused the STRI of misjudging the ground conditions – although extensive data has been collected in an attempt to reproduce the dry, firm conditions that saw the pitch play well last summer and autumn, the eventual surface was still problematic.

This morning, Geoff Webb, chief executive of the Institute Of Groundsmanship, went on national radio and released a press statement that also suggested that the schedule of events is the main factor in the state of the pitch. He has expressed concerns that groundsmen are routinely blamed for the Wembley pitch, which may be damaging the reputation of the UK’s groundsmanship industry.

In an article on, Saltman suggests that Wembley could try rebuilding the layers of gravel and sand below the surface in the hope of improving infiltration, but a project like this would take two months, and would be prevented by the events schedule. The only option seems to be the one reported in The Telegraph – that the pitch will now be relaid every four months at a cost of £125,000 a time.

Institute Of Groundsmanship
Sports Turf Research Institute Sports turf suppliers Natural sports turf contractors

Outdoor play / education in America

Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect - Buffalo Public School 90

Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect - Buffalo Public School 90

The American Society of Landscape Architects has established a new professional practice network based on children’s outdoor environments – Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network. Its focus is on ‘designing areas for children to play, learn, and develop a relationship with nature’.

One of the case studies from their first newsletter is Buffalo Public School 90, ‘a shining example of how landscape architecture makes a true and lasting difference in people’s lives’. There’s a good explanation of how each element of the redesigned outdoor space integrates with the school curriculum. Maths, science, languages, geography, art and physical education are all catered for.

Elsewhere, the Children, Youth and Environments Center for Research and Design at the University of Colorado at Denver works with ‘the design professions and allied disciplines to promote the health, safety and welfare of children and youth.’

Current projects include:

If They Build It, Will They Come?
An evaluation of the effects of the redevelopment of inner-city school grounds on the physical activity of children.

Intergenerational Mural
Elder artists are working with school children to create a multi-dimensional representation of a child-friendly community.

Urban Hens
Aims to develop a sustainable model for re-introducing chickens in Boulder backyards, providing children with an opportunity to learn more about a local food source.

For great examples of natural playgrounds browse Playscapes – a blog about playground design.

ESI references:

Urban green space in Scotland


State of Scotland's Greenspace 2009

Scotland’s residents benefit from urban green space to the tune of 23m2 per person, according to a new report by greenspace scotland.

It identifies 85,000 hectares’ worth, or equivalent to 120,000 football pitches, made up of private gardens, natural spaces, amenity areas, sports areas, and public parks and gardens.

The report can be downloaded free of charge, and includes an interactive map.

ESI references:

Playgrounds: risk and freedom

Children's playground

Balancing risk and freedom

What level of risk is acceptable in children’s health and safety?

‘The balance between allowing children to play unhindered and wrapping them in cotton wool has been struck in some public playgrounds’ claims an interesting article in the Times Educational Supplement on freedom, risk and children’s playgrounds.

It also references examples of playground design from Stirling where safer surfacing and fences have been dispensed with in order to encourage exploration and further learning opportunities.

ESI references:

London 2012 themed cupcakes

from London 2012 blog

from London 2012 blog

Fun and games at the Olympic Delivery Authority, as staff produce a scale model of the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic Park in cake, fondant and royal icing for a colleague’s birthday.

Clare from ODA Design & Planning says, “In the end I think I got most of the main venues in and managed to make the Handball Arena, Aquatics Centre, Velodrome, Basketball Arena, Olympic Stadium, Water Polo, the Energy Centre, International Broadcast Centre/Main Press Centre (IBC/MPC) and the Hockey Centre. The venues were all vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream and coloured sugar paste”.

ESI references: