Bexley Playbuilders

A three-day workshop funded by the London Borough of Bexley aimed to enable young people to learn about and take part in the consultation and design process of play facilities.

Key Project Information

Partners: LB Bexley
Participants: 7 young people aged 7-14
Format: 3-day workshop

Project Overview

Bexley Young Playbuilders was an Open-City project funded by the London Borough of Bexley. It allowed them to explore their ideas and concerns about play areas, to take part in creative and
multimedia activities and to test principles for engaging young people in the design of the Playbuilders open spaces.


The project aimed to enable Bexley young people aged 7-14 to learn about and take part in the consultation and design process of play facilities at the Lesnes Abbey site, which is one of the proposed Bexley Playbuilders sites.

Project Detail

London Borough of Bexley commissioned Open-City to develop and deliver a consultation toolkit to generate a bespoke and creative response to Lesnes Abbey redevelopment of play opportunities as part of the Bexley Playbuilders programme. Education professionals from Open House, London’s leading architectural education charity and creative professionals (architect, landscape architect, writer and film artist) supported the young people during the 3-day workshop. Exploration of existing public spaces and play areas both in and out of the borough and investigation of participants concerns and ideas for these spaces took place through site visits as well as creative and multimedia activities.

The challenge for the young people was to consider how the ‘Playbuilders’ scheme can deliver a sitespecific response to a complex site (ancient woodland, historic monument and high density housing in an area of deprivation with an ethnically and culturally diverse population).

The Bexley young people were given the opportunity to participate in the following activities:

  • Peer-led activities run by My City Too Ambassadors to support young people in exploring their
    built environment
  • Exploration activities in exemplary spaces both in Bexley and other parts of London.
  • Working with professionals from the construction industry (Architects, Landscape Architects etc)
    to explore various aspects of the future play area.
  • Creative and multimedia activities to help young people engage with spaces and communicate
    their ideas for the built environment

Visits to spaces and places of exemplary design allowed the young people to be better informed on what
is possible, and to have a point of comparison for their suggestions on play areas. Afternoon workshop
sessions took place at the Thames Innovation Centre in Bexley.

The young people were engaged in the following creative areas in order to explore and express their

  • Mapping and annotating
  • Consideration of scale and materials
  • Photography and video
  • Drama and props making
  • Creative writing (storyboards)
  • Drawing and collage making
  • Designing their own play equipment

All of the participants were white British and some had special needs (Aspergers syndrome and ADHD). They were also of mixed ability.


The workshop had the following objectives:

To raise confidence of young participants by providing peer mentors and learning methods.
Outcome: the presence of peer mentors helped the less confident young people relax in a friendly atmosphere. The progressive learning method ensured they never felt out of their depth and they were all given the opportunity to do activities at their own pace. Young people’s growing confidence in exploring spaces as the workshop progressed can be seen through their increasing desire to take activities into their own hands. They independently built props at home and decided to alter the video diary output by performing in front of the camera, re-enacting the stories they had been working on.

To raise aspirations by providing explorations of exemplar public spaces.
Outcome: Only two of the eight participants had already been to the Thames Barrier Park, and the exploration activities helped them see it in a very different light, encouraging them to look at and decipher the space rather than simply experience it. Their response to the space exploration activities showed their increasing knowledge of how some outstanding spaces can work.


  • A video diary capturing the engagement process.
  • A set of principles for creating successful parks and play areas for young people.
  • Consultation Toolkit: A set of principles for engaging young people in the design of the Playbuilders open spaces

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