children enjoying the clamberable canopy

BACKGROUND

The Wild Kingdom project was one of a series of London Legacy projects which form part of a larger regeneration of East London, aiming to improve the network of public spaces around the Olympic Park. The project is set on Three Mills Green, a stone’s throw from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with good access from the local Pudding Mill Lane tube station.

The Wild Kingdom play space at Three Mills Green is an imaginative concept designed by architects from ‘We Made That’ to give urban children the opportunity to experience play in a natural setting, inspiring creativity and providing a link to nature. Published research asserts the importance of nature to children’s play and Wild Kingdom provides space to play in mud and leaves and climb trees – types of play that local children might not otherwise be able to enjoy.

OUR ROLE

The design is based on an adventure playground concept with specialist features such as hammocks, outdoor trampoline, maypole swing, stage and amphitheatre. The theme emphasises the importance of natural textures, instead of the standard brightly coloured metal and plastic play equipment which dominates most play spaces. Wild Kingdom’s realisation saw complex custom pieces of equipment created specifically for the project. The project sets itself apart from many by its emphasis on the associated involvement of local young people in the construction and onwards evolution of the play space, of which idverde (contracted as The Landscape Group) was an integral part.

idverde was given Design and Build responsibility for the realisation of the Wild Kingdom concept. The team devoted a large amount of time to technical research in order to design the equipment in line with the initial design concept. The idverde team led this process, liaising with bespoke play equipment suppliers in the UK and across Europe.

A particular challenge was the ‘clamberable canopy’ play net, which was to be suspended across large trees acting as its supports. The original specification for the canopy was calculated to be too heavy for the trees to support. Our team worked closely with the client and the production supplier to find a suitable solution which would work with the natural materials, instead of needing to turn to steel supports.

Swings and objects in the landscape are combined with a considered manipulation of nature. Trees have been tied together so that they will grow into a natural shelter. The idverde team created a large proportion of the bespoke, handmade seating features from logs and site found granite, in addition to the bespoke stage built from reclaimed timbers. The conjoined elements of the site were formed from a variety of precast concrete blocks and natural logs to create seating areas.

The soft landscaping of the site critically needed to appear as ‘wild’ and natural as possible, with a carefully designed planting scheme to achieve this.

CHALLENGES

Unfortunately, the soil at the site proved to be contaminated, affecting the survival chances of some of the originally specified plant species. Working with the client, we identified more suitable species and improved the soil to support them. Plants such as wild teasels and burdock form part of the scheme which, when grown, can be picked and played with.

As a core part of the build of the play space, the team hosted a number of workshops to engage and involve the local community in the construction of the play space. Bug hotels and hibernacula’s were created during these workshops with local youngsters through school groups.

The location of the site on the doorstep of the biggest event in the world at the time of its construction caused a number of access, deliveries and security issues. With a short program and long lead times on the bespoke pieces of play equipment, the sequence of works had to be carefully planned to meet the completion date. These constraints were overcome by completing all civil works weeks in advance then revisiting all areas to complete the install of the play equipment and finish the landscaping in the final two weeks of the program.

idverde remained involved with the project for a further three years to finish the ‘slow build’, throughout which we continued to consult with the client and community to make changes where required.

Client: London Legacy Development Corporation and Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Architect: We Made That

Images used with permission from We Made That.