Underused space becomes community hub

Date completed: May 2016
Location: Bideford, Devon
Sectors worked with: Architects & Developers
Play types encouraged:

Exploratory play

Exploratory play icon

This happens when children decide to investigate their physical surroundings, exploring new spaces and ‘ranging’. What they require are places that provide spatial diversity and interest, opportunities to move into unknown territory and environments that stimulate their curiosity and imagination.

Imaginative play

Imaginative play icon

Playing pretend allows children to stretch their imaginations, create their own worlds and explore real life situations in ways that are manageable for their stage of development. They need flexible environments that they can adapt for their own purposes and which stimulate all the senses.

Quiet play

Quiet play icon

We all need time and space to be still and relax. For children this time is vital for integrating the many sensory impressions they encounter throughout the day. Quiet play allows them to rest, dream and refuel their brains and bodies. They need spaces that feel safe, comfortable and contained.

Social play

Social play icon

Making friends, sharing stories, learning the rules of a new game - children are social beings and play is a perfect way to learn about yourself and other people. In social play children can explore relationship dynamics and learn how to express their needs, establish boundaries and resolve differences.

Physical play

Physical play icon

Children’s minds and bodies grow in relation to their physical environment and require experimentation and challenge to reach their full potential. Physical play helps children understand what their bodies are capable of and allows them to take the necessary risks required for healthy development.

Loose Parts play

Loose Parts play icon

Banging on pots, making mud pies, building dens – these activities teach children about the physical and textural qualities of materials and how different elements fit together. Loose parts play offers sensory pleasure as well as developing hand eye coordination and problem solving skills.


Bideford had a lot of great kids, but not a lot of great play spaces. Aware of the lack of play provision, Westward Housing, who we had collaborated with in Plymouth, wanted to create a housing estate that would do more than provide housing. They were looking for a design to replace the old rundown playground that would provide a ‘meet and play’ space for all ages and bring the community together. A place where local kids and adults would enjoy spending an afternoon.

Our first step was to get ideas from local residents, so we ran one of our model making workshops at their community fun day.

From that input we produced a design incorporating sand play, wooden structures, hill forms and native planting, which is now a much loved community hub.

The estate including play area was nominated for the Excellence In Community Action Award.

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