Play and Inclusive Design at the Old Kent Road

The London Borough of Southwark relaunched their Area Action Plan for the Old Kent Road in December 2020 and we are delighted to see that they have used one of our proposals to illustrate the Action Plan’s section on play and inclusive design.


Illustrative view of play and inclusive design at the Old Kent Road


We believe that one of the most important things to consider in landscape and public realm design is the variety of ways that people use spaces – ensuring designs are inclusive and engaging for all age groups and abilities.


Inclusive design was a particularly important consideration when we worked alongside Macreanor Lavington Architects as Landscape Consultants on the design of the amenity and public realm spaces of a landlocked site along the Old Kent Road in Peckham. The area is due to undergo a transformation as part of a broader development strategy which includes the potential extension of the Bakerloo line. The site we have been working on is a landmark site, highlighted by the proposed construction of a number of tall buildings.

Illustrative view of Livesey Park


The proposal is a dense residential development with significant demand for amenity space – it includes a place of worship, retail and workspace, a variety of small-scale public spaces, communal low level roof gardens and tower top roof terraces. The mixed use of the site means that the demographic of occupants is broad – with a mix of tenures and a high level of family sized units. This complexity of use means that play and inclusive design is a crucial element of the proposal.



Illustrative view of Civic Square


One thing I have realised throughout my work and research is that play is something that can truly invigorate and activate the public realm. And most importantly - play is not just for children. We all benefit from spaces designed with play in mind and, while there is always a need for designated play space, amenity areas with potential for “playable” space can add an additional layer of enjoyment for anyone using them. It is also important to recognise that there is more than just one type of play. Play can be sensory, active, creative, imaginative, naturalistic, doorstep, incidental…the list goes on.


Play precedent images


The spaces we designed for the Old Kent Road development had play in mind. All of the terraces have been designed to be playable, while allowing all residents to enjoy them and at different times of the day. This was facilitated by allocating some areas as specific play areas. For younger children we included sand and robust timber structures and for older children we included table tennis tables. Internal play areas and games rooms are also proposed to complement the outside playable space.


Illustrative view of play at the Old Kent Road site


Play is a key element in other aspects of the design. The material palette was selected based on its compatibility with play – paving is hardwearing enough to endure children’s scooters, and patterns in the pavement allow for creative and imaginative play. Seating is robust yet tactile and designed in a variety of configurations. We also propose spaces for parents to watch younger children play, for teenagers to hang out, for children to climb, and equally for other age groups to sit and socialise or relax in different sized groups. Planting is sensorily focused, with a rich mix of varieties to increase biodiversity and lawned areas are placed throughout, providing an additional play space.



Illustrative view of play at podium level


At night, play is still possible and the spaces are animated by in-ground lighting. Some of the lighting is also part of the legibility strategy, and some is designed to create atmosphere in the smaller social areas. Light also filters through Luxcrete rooflights from a church below.


This integrated play and amenity strategy is crucial for the success of the development. Working alongside Macreanor Lavington Architects also enabled an approach where the landscape and architecture could facilitate each other, to develop proposals that will, when built, provide a remarkable and enjoyable place to live for all. It’s a project that we are very proud of and we look forward to moving ahead with.


For more information on this project, visit our Peckham Landscape project page.

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