Thornbury Park was an underused park offering few facilities apart from flat grass land used for football games, and a conventional fenced, fixed equipment playground. LB Hounslow secured funding for a wheel park and ball court.
Initially local and client thinking was to place both facilities at the perimeter of the park, 'out of the way'. Our view was different. First and foremost we are guided by the value that, 'Children and teenagers being seen and heard in shared public space are hallmarks of a society at ease with itself' (PLAYLINK policy statement) . Thus we felt that new facilities should be located near paths, and not seek to hide itself.
Our aim was to create a focus of visual and activity interest that could be seen from the park gates, and other points within the park. This as part of an understanding that people feel safe when they are in sight of other people and of legitimising a youthful presence.
We also understand that there is a performative aspect to wheel parks and ball courts. In addition to the overt play and games occurring, wheel parks, ball courts are places of congregation, of gathering, of people-watching. Thus we wanted to create places that invited watching and hanging around.
Finally, we wanted to integrate both features into the landscape, to avoid the 'sticking out like a sore thumb' syndrome of plonking down an ugly, fully enclosed - 'caged' - ball court, as if we were addressing an anywhere space. Thus, land moulding, additional paths, planting, seating, and no fence along two sides of the ball court. Utility and attractiveness as key features of the design.