Barking Riverside Play Valley

Barking Riverside Limited

About the Project

Barking Riverside Limited identified that the existing play provision and design of playgrounds on their new development was not meeting the needs, or aspirations, of new residents moving in to the area. They commissioned us to co-design a new space and understand what the barriers to using the existing provision was.

We started with a walkabout through existing spaces with our photo frames to capture existing provision and analyse what worked and what didn’t work, we then took 20 parents and 27 children on a study trip to get inspired and see a range of play spaces. With imaginations fuelled we helped a workshop to prioritise ideas, draw, make models and look at the budget.

After many iterations we agreed a final design and drew up detailed plans and specifications. To reignite enthusiasm prior to the opening we ran a sign making workshop in the local primary school to create bespoke signage that is featured on each of the gates. The playground is now open for public use and much enjoyed by all; it was opened with a celebration collaborative produced by local parents.


Co-design process August – September 2013
Opening – May 2015

Our Tools & Approach

We started the project by understanding what the existing context for play is locally, what spaces people were using and why, and which spaces people were avoiding and why. We took our collection of photo frames on a walkabout through the development and asked people, particularly the children we bumped into how they experienced the spaces. We quickly identified that there was no dedicated provision for kicking a ball around and this was a source of conflict amongst young people and adults; we also discovered that things children enjoyed parents felt did not equate to good play so we knew we had a challenge to develop a shared understanding of what type of playground we would like to create.

We proposed a study trip, or Barking Riverside outing as it was commonly known, to visit some existing parks and see what we thought about them. We hired a coach and using some advertising created by local children we recruited 20 parents and 27 children to pack a picnic and join us for the day. We went to a playground some parents had identified as being fun and went to some examples that we had identified that included a mixture of natural play and fixed equipment. The client and local ward councillor joined us on the trip so that they could hear and experience what people thought. This was a really useful activity as parents and children could see the value of a range of types of play and features such as seating and informal run around areas to allow people to spend a whole day in the park.

Following the study trip we help a drop in workshop to prioritise features, look at layout and conduct a participatory budgeting exercise to look at how to assemble the features included. The client, local planning authority and local play rangers were involved in this workshop so they could hear the insight themselves rather than it always being filtered through us.

We collated the ideas into a final design and worked with the landscape contractors to secure final costings and details. A final report was issued to the planning authority to discharge a planning condition and a construction timetable was produced.

The park was installed and completed in April 2015 and opened to the public in May 2015 via a celebration hosted in collaboration with local parents.