Alexandra Road Park
A series of play spaces located within a listed 1.7-hectare park landscape, London NW8
This linear park unites the Alexandra Road and Ainsworth Estates designed in 1968 by Neave Brown. The original park was created by Brown in conjunction with renowned landscape architect Janet Jack and was completed in 1979. It was designed as a playable landscape consisting of five linked sunken play areas conceived as ‘outdoor rooms’. The park was the first 20th century landscape to be listed in the UK.
The key challenge was to create contemporary play space incorporating modern play theory to be located in the context of an important piece of urban design and cultural heritage.
Erect Architecture, working in collaboration with project landscape architects J & L Gibbons, designed four new play spaces for the site, which reference Jack’s historic play features but reinterpret them in a contemporary way.
Engagement with residents of all ages informed the design process of this Heritage Lottery Funded project, and Erect Architecture consulted closely with Jack to ensure their contemporary play designs remained true to the original ethos of the parkland. The designs picked up on features within the original playgrounds but also increased the complexity of the play offer, added play types and sensory experiences and increased risk and challenge to provide modern playgrounds inspired by the originals.
For the under-fives, this playground comprises small play houses based in and around concrete blockwork shells and inspired by Jack’s original design. The shell unit is repeated and rotated and a secondary timber structure is added to increase complexity and enhance the play value, with various configurations of steps, climbing ramps and platforms linking the blockwork structures together.
A bespoke climbing frame, based on a deconstructed geodesic dome of the original design, dominates the next playground: vivid yellow steel triangles lean against each other and are filled in with nets, ropes, monkey bars, and climbing struts for children aged eight plus.
The swing park, with its surviving original play feature of red swings, provides a variety of swing types set on a landscape of grass mounds.
The final space provides a sunken multi-pitch area suitable for a range of sports and games.
Janet Jack touring the completed project.
Location: Camden, London
Client: LB Camden and Heritage Lottery Fund
Cost: Play rooms £350K
Play design Erect Architecture
Landscape design J&L Gibbons
Structural engineer Jane Wernick Associates
Project management Around the Block
Play safety RoSPA
Contractor Ground Control
Photography Erect Architecture