Fibreglass seating and low timber decking bring contemporary design, curves and colour to a desolate housing plaza in one of London’s most deprived areas. The decks replaced concrete ventilation shafts that blocked sight lines and made people frightened to use this major movement route to school and the local community hall.

The 1970’s-built Wyndham Estate is in one of the most deprived wards in the UK. Concrete podium level plazas raised above sub-surface car parks form the public realm. The setting is harsh and drab, access difficult, and numerous ventilation structures hide the path ahead. The tenants’ committee secured funding for an outdoor social space that felt safe especially at night, and some greening.  Shape consulted residents of the surrounding towers, conducting workshops on site using 3D models of the space that allowed residents to explore options for materials, colours, access and planting, and to identify priorities for the limited budget available.

Demolition of ventilation shafts and provision of low seating decks with internal lighting were agreed. Light canopy tree planting at the street edge was preferred to higher maintenance planting options on the deck itself.  Strong colours and organic deck shapes were selected by old and young, as a contrast to their existing grey box surroundings.

Shape designed two modular seating units that combine to create a variable curved edge, and specified 3 ‘candy’ colours that bring a theatrical and playful character to the previously daunting plaza area. The decks improved visibility making the plaza feel much safer, while still allowing air circulation and daylight to tenants’ sub-surface storage units.

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