Old Ford Primary School Entrance

The school asked us to improve the entrance to create a coherent and welcoming appearance and provide a new view connection between reception and entrance. The curved timber wall sweeps with increasing density towards the entrance, providing a coherent face and datum level across different building blocks, whilst providing spaces for whiling and casual encounter. New signage was integrated in the overall design.

Old Ford Primary School Playgrounds

Old Ford Primary School invited us to optimize the existing space and design six external spaces, with distinctly different atmospheres and play offers. The issues were as for most inner city schools - a lack of external space and therefore the need for hardworking solutions at low budget.

Based on brief and further outreach we continued an existing theme of different landscapes for the school grounds. Each playground is loosely themed according to a landscape typology. The themes are reflected in the type of play, activities, sensory experiences and material palettes and are developed around already existing features. The new playgrounds provide hardworking solutions to optimise minimal space provision and encourage outdoor play and teaching. Our approach shares many beliefs with Play England guidance to create a rich, engaging and challenging play experience.
The scheme was implemented in 5 phases: One playground was built each summer holiday since 2008.
Beach (Phase 5, Yrs 5 & 6): The existing theme of beach was expanded, canopies added to resemble beach huts, providing a low key performance or teaching space, a climbing structure with poop deck, nets and ropes provide physical challenge, hammocks social chill out space. A new MUGA was added. Plenty of new planting added beach character to the space.
River edge (Phase 3, Reception): A tall canopy along the classroom entrances is supported by ship masts.
It creates an all-weather outdoor learning and playing space. Existing structures (boat, climbing frame) within the playground were recycled and upgraded to add more interest. An undulating landscape provides a sand and waterplay area. A market stall area provides for roleplay.
Kasbah and Oasis (Phase 4, Nursery): The playground to east of the nursery is a grassy landscape of mounds and balancing challenges. Embedded are sand and waterplay.
The Kasbah playground to the other side is about physical challenges and roleplay. A play structure inhabits a new fence and creates a rampart. The children can follow
routes at high or low level to inhabit, pitch their market stalls, climb high, look out, spy, chase, and find the great marble run...
Urban Playground (Yrs 3 & 4): The Urban Playground is the PA playground. It is hard and fast, providing a steel canopy, pitches (including cricket nets) and seating become ramps for cycling education. The perimeter is hardworking with a bouldering wall and trim trail activities.
Forest Playground (Yrs 1 & 2): The main elements of the Forest Playground are a play and climbing topography, a large canopy (located adjacent to the class rooms offering outdoor teaching opportunities as well as shelter), a play village with stage, blackboards and mirrors. The materiality is predominantly timber. Some items are recycled (such as the shelters) or made from materials reclaimed during demolition, such as benches and logs. Different floor finishes create areas of different speed and sound. After completion of the playground, erect architecture worked with pupils on design and construction of a musical instrument (Found Sound) within the playground. In workshops the pupils learned about creating sound, co-ordinating sound, making basic instruments and a spatial proposal for those, which they will built together with a contractor.
Location: Tower Hamlets, London
Client: Old Ford Primary School
Cost: £500,000 (5 playgrounds plus entrance)
Status: Completed 2008-2013 (5 phases)
Structural engineer: Tall Engineers
Contractors: Collinson’s Landscaping Company
Urban climbing structure (yrs 3 & 4): Taking a language of building typology, this robust oak-framed structure imitates an urban-grain building typology and demonstrates complex and applied joins as part of it's structure. This climbing structure is perhaps the most challenging at Old Ford, with large rope spans, stainless steel inclined monkey bars and a high fireman's pole platform.

Situated at the Eastern end of the Years 3 & 4 playground, it provides a sunny backdrop to the playground activities and covertly contains the bicycle storage and bin sheds.

Structural Engineer: Tall Engineers
Contractor: Grassroots Play