London-based practice de Matos Ryan has brightened up the playground at Charlotte
Sharman Primary School in Southwark South London with a new play scheme designed
to promote dramatic inquiry.
The scheme replaces an uninspiring grey tarmac playground and is centred around two
new timber pavilions and climbing wall linked by a brightly coloured abstract landscape
painted directly onto the tarmac.
At a time of public sector spending cuts, the project illustrates how it is possible to effect
positive change through small-scale intervention.
Dubbed 'The Clubhouse' and 'Stage' the two pavilions have been designed to promote
creative play and encourage story telling and performance. They also provide shelter
from the rain and sun and double up as an outdoor teaching area during the summer
The pavilions provide a backdrop for dramatic inquiry, a term the practice became
aware of whilst working with education psychologist Brian Edmiston on a collaborative
research project for Creative Partnerships at Wearhead Primary School, County
Durham. The intention has been to create a space in which the school children can act
out imagined narratives in imagined spaces.
The scheme was developed in consultation with the pupils of the school through their
School Council. The imagination of the children was unlimited and gave license to the
playground being understood as a fantastic marine landscape whereby the new built
structures and play equipment were flotsam on the surface of the water.
The pavilions are sufficiently abstract to encourage renewed interpretations so that
within the marine landscape the children can occupy them as numerous parts of a ship:
the hold, the captain’s cabin, an oil platform and a rowing boat. The pavilions are constructed of a steel frame and decking boards affixed to WBP
plywood and are clad with slatted Siberian Larch.
Sinuous lines carved into the larch of the Clubhouse create a wave formation across the
slats adding dynamism to the structure. A series of gridded 'rafts' incorporated into the tarmac landscape are hot spots to play
out a unique game called Champ which was historically devised by the school pupils
and especially incorporated by the architects for this setting.