Recently we were faced with a build dilemma which resulted in a rather wonky looking sandpit shelter in the Early Years (EYS) play area of an inner city London school we have the privilege to be creating a play area for

Rather wonky sand pit shelter


After numerous discussions with the company we had commissioned to built it and also the team member who installed it. I came to the conclusion as the building manager for this particular project, to not waste more time trying to fix it but instead seek to work with the form in front of us. After discussing the dilemma of the wonky frame with an extremely talented designer volunteering on the team, we decided to accentuate the slanted nature of the shelter and incorporate it into a theme. This lead to us incorporating an underwater scene into the roof of the play area, creating waves to hang down from the roof beams and using colours that suggest the sea but do not enforce the children’s imagination to consider the shelter as a wonky shipwreck.

Sea blue frame


Now I realise this is a bit of a push on reality but well as play designers we are allowed to be playful with the challenges that come our way. I particularly love the fact that as the children settle into the sandpit shelter, they can look up at the fishes smiling down at them.

A rather recognisable fish smiling down

Roof pre-installation


One thing we should have done, was confirm our ideas with the children’s caregivers; the EYS teachers. As co-designers it is imperative we continuously validate our ideas or proposed solutions with the users or their caregivers. If they were not around at the time, as was the case, during our build, perhaps it would be wiser to wait until you can confirm or have a plan to address situations such as this. As a result or our failure to discuss our ideas, we weren’t able to include the waves in the final installation. Although I am confident there will be other uses for them on playground one day.

Let’s keep collaboratively solving problems playfully and accentuating mishaps into beauty.

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