Stratton Bates Recreation Ground: Putting the users at the centre of the design process

Streets & Spaces


How do you turn a tired, shabby, and not very adventurous playground into a popular place for the youngest members of the community? New Alresford Town Council appointed us to help them figure out a more interesting and appealing design for the play area at the Stratton Bates Recreation Ground.


We knew that a user centred approach would be the most effective way to engage the local community to determine the future of their play area. So we went into the classroom at local primary schools to find out what the children dreamed of climbing, swinging, and sliding down.

Our team prepared a model base at 1:200 scale, setting out the area to be redesigned, on which we set up model 3-D homes and trees to help set the scene. The children expressed their ideas using plasticine and other craft materials, proudly presenting them one design at a time, on the main model base.

We took photos and video of the children’s presentations. This allowed us to analyse their ideas in some detail, categorising them into types of preferred equipment, and translating them into three design scenarios that could be subject to public testing. We organised and ran an outdoor design exhibition, when many people came along to vote for their favourite concept, as well as offering feedback on the variation designs. This enabled us to create a preferred scenario that was packaged into a report and issued as a design brief to contractors.


The build contract was awarded to Eibe, a company which constructs safe and sustainable adventurous playground equipment. Eibe were able to interpret our design brief from which they created construction drawings. The new play area was installed in summer 2022 and was formally opened by those who helped to design it, the young playful adventurers who were involved right at the start of the project in the classroom design sessions. They were now ready to enjoy their creation in real life.