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Playing with colour

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On a large stretch of wasteland, in the heart of the 1970s Park Springs estate in the flat town of Gainsborough - a splash of colour. This is Groundworks Architects' new premises for the Gainsborough Adventure Playground Association. For years, children turning up after school to play had only had a choice between the wooden palettes of the playing field or the dilapidated Portakabin lurking in a corner. The Portakabin was burnt out in an arson attack just as the Charities Lottery fund money for Groundworks' project came through - it is not missed.

The new centre appears slightly alien to the site. The red render is rough but infinitely smoother than the old pieces of wood that are turned into climbing frames and hideouts around it. It is a place that is self-consciously bright and cheerful, painted in bright primary colours - typical of the practice's work elsewhere (AJ 11.11.99).

Essentially the new building is a big playroom, with other rooms clustered around it. With its clerestory windows, the barrel-vaulted roof over the central area lets in plenty of light. The exposed timbers - colonised by a jungle of paper snakes - give the impression of a converted space and the windows of the main room face the adventure playground. The use of domestic-sized windows in conventional frames gives a human scale to the view, with a nice touch of an opening window at a child's height.

The adventure playground building is situated in a single regeneration budget area so its committee had to demonstrate how the building might be used by the rest of the community.

Groundworks adapted its designs for an interested local bowls club, ensuring that the minimum length requirement could be achieved by opening the double doors into each of the auxiliary spaces.

One section of the building can be isolated to create a discrete space with its own entrance. It is regularly used for a toddler's group but is flexible and can be expanded for other events.

The little kitchen is complex for its size, with three serving hatches and two sets of sinks and cookers, plus a basin. The kitchen's many functions - selling tuck to children, cooking and serving meals and acting as a demonstration kitchen for both children and young mothers - mean that it is too full of things to be used effectively.

Keeping somewhere clear enough for 80 to 150 children to invade on a wet day requires a lot of discipline - and storage space. There are plenty of well organised cupboards around and the foldable tables can all be fitted into the stores. The lights are low energy and underfloor heating is the main source of heat - both to keep running costs down. But Groundworks has also allowed the children the luxury of hand-warming, with a couple of strategically placed radiators.

The site has been designed to be both welcoming and secure.A lot of money went into fencing the site and deadlocking the centre at night - the windows overlooking the playing area have attractive low-tech metal shutters that roll across them and elsewhere there are concealed electronically-operated shutters. These security concerns are absorbed by the warm roundness of the design.

Asked to say what they wanted in the new centre the children came up with a variety of requests, ranging from wheelbarrows to tabletennis equipment to an aeroplane. Groundworks was unsurprisingly unable to satisfy all their desires but the bright alien it created does bring an extra colour to the lives of the children who flood in each evening.

CREDITS

ARCHITECT Groundworks Architects: Alison Davies, Roger Gooding, Steve Banks, Chris Hesketh

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Price and Myers

QUANTITY SURVEYOR AWWest Associates M&E

SERVICES ENGINEER Leeds Environmental Design Associates

MAIN CONTRACTOR Gelder

SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS mechanical Nigel Smith Plumbing and Heating; electrical Malc Gladwin Electrical; flooring DLW Floorings; roofing SpeedDeck Building Systems; structural steelwork Eagle Structural; windows and screens Sashless Window Company; sliding and folding glazed screen (cafe) Alco Systems;

children's furniture Sherwood Industries and Allermuir; office furniture System B8

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