Playground Charlotte Sharman Primary School / de Matos Ryan

© David Grandorge

Architects: de Matos Ryan
Location: , , UK
Client: Charlotte Sharman Primary School
Structural Engineer: Price & Myers
Building Contractor: Robert Grzybowski
Playground Safety Inspector: Morral Play Solutions
Photographs: David Grandorge

© David Grandorge

London-based practice de Matos Ryan has brightened up the playground at Charlotte Sharman Primary School in Southwark South London with a new play scheme designed to promote dramatic inquiry.

The scheme replaces an uninspiring grey tarmac playground and is centred around two new timber pavilions and climbing wall linked by a brightly coloured abstract landscape painted directly onto the tarmac.

At a time of public sector spending cuts, the project illustrates how it is possible to effect positive change through small-scale intervention.


Dubbed ‘The Clubhouse’ and ‘Stage’ the two pavilions have been designed to promote creative play and encourage story telling and performance. They also provide shelter from the rain and sun and double up as an outdoor teaching area during the summer term.

The pavilions provide a backdrop for dramatic inquiry, a term the practice became aware of whilst working with education psychologist Brian Edmiston on a collaborative research project for Creative Partnerships at Wearhead Primary School, County Durham. The intention has been to create a space in which the school children can act out imagined narratives in imagined spaces.

The scheme was developed in consultation with the pupils of the school through their School Council. The imagination of the children was unlimited and gave license to the playground being understood as a fantastic marine landscape whereby the new built structures and play equipment were flotsam on the surface of the water.


The pavilions are sufficiently abstract to encourage renewed interpretations so that within the marine landscape the children can occupy them as numerous parts of a ship: the hold, the captain’s cabin, an oil platform and a rowing boat.

The pavilions are constructed of a steel frame and decking boards affixed to WBP plywood and are clad with slatted Siberian Larch.

Sinuous lines carved into the larch of the Clubhouse create a wave formation across the slats adding dynamism to the structure.

A series of gridded ‘rafts’ incorporated into the tarmac landscape are hot spots to play out a unique game called Champ which was historically devised by the school pupils and especially incorporated by the architects for this setting.

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Playground Charlotte Sharman Primary School / de Matos Ryan" 22 Dec 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>