Wood in architecture
London || UK
Asif Khan has designed an elevated playground for Chisenhale Primary School in Bow, East London, which has just completed construction and is the first part of the school’s long-term masterplan.
Khan, who has two children at the school, approached the American Hardwood Export Council and AKT II structural engineers to collaborate with him on the project while the active parent body at the school raised funds through fetes and other events held throughout the year.
The challenging brief required an increase in the play area of this inner city primary school to match the expanded pupil population, without reducing the space required by the P.E curriculum.
The design adds a double-layered play space to the edge of the existing playground, a soft landscape beneath 2.2 metre elevated deck, connected by a hill and two slides.
Asif Khan says: “We designed an inside and outside space where the kids can invent their own play. This terrain is composed of two elements – a soft rubber landscape culminating in a steep hill and an elevated semi-enclosed timber space. The slides and rope nets bridge the vertical. The plan stimulates the kids to move, but also creates quiet spaces where they can rest. In this simple structure we’ve seen so much variety of play created by the children.”
The children at Chisenhale were consulted on the design of the space over a six-month period and had specific ideas they communicated to the architects.
The kids wanted places to run and climb, places to hide and somewhere to rest and chat to friends.
Asif Khan says: “We were keen on using timber to provide a friendly layer of texture. The structure is designed to be adaptable and will grow and evolve over time.”
Head Teacher Helen James says: “This is such an exciting place to be for the children. In terms of material the wood fits in so much with what we do at the school with education about being environmentally responsible.”
The structure is built from thermally modified tulipwood slatted panels with a deck structure of thermally modified ash. It will go through a cradle-to-grave Life Cycle Assessment, as do most of AHEC’s projects, and this will be used as a learning opportunity as part of the school’s curriculum.
Venables, European Director of AHEC says: “We are thrilled to be supporting a project that will educate children about good design, architecture and the environmentally friendly woods that are used for building. We see this as an opportunity for kids to learn about sustainable materials grown in nature that can be used to improve their lives. The thermally modified ash and tulipwoods are incredibly durable for outdoor use so it’s a perfect material for Asif Khan to be using for this project.”
American tulipwood (Liriodendron tulipifera)
American tulipwood has a creamy white sapwood which may be streaked. The heartwood varies from pale yellowish brown to olive green. This green colour tends to darken on exposure to UV light and turn brown.
The wood has a medium to fine texture and is straight grained.
One of the best value and most versatile US hardwood species, tulipwood is widely used in construction, furniture and interior joinery. Although relatively light in weight and soft, American tulipwood has excellent mechanical properties and has a very high strength to weight ratio making it ideal for laminated beams and structures. Tulipwood is often painted or stained, but the use of natural finishes to show off its exciting colour variations and grain patterns, is increasing.
American ash (Fraxinus spp.)
American ash is a very versatile light coloured hardwood, with strong distinctive grain patterns. The sapwood is light coloured to nearly white and the darker heartwood varies according to growing region.
American ash is a strong hard wearing wood used for a wide range of joinery and furniture applications. It has excellent shock resistance, and is good for steam bending.
Gross Floor Area: 35 m2
Architects: Asif Khan
Contractor: Aldworth James and Bond, Duncan & Grove, M&M architectural
Structural: AKT II
Rubber Crumb Play Surface: Eco Surface
Stainless Steel Slides: Massey & Harris
Thermally Modified Tulipwood and Ash: AHEC
Photography: © Hélène Binet