St. Mungo’s Southwark, London 2006
Shape’s portfolio of largely public spaces means we are familiar with situations where antisocial behaviour, crime, and fear of crime affect park use. This churchyard, in central London near Waterloo Station, suffered for decades from a reputation as a homeless persons’ base, and a known hangout for drug and alchohol users.
Shape’s analysis suggested that in addition to the presence of drinkers, lack of visibility into the park, narrow paths and absence of alternative routes past occupied benches discouraged most people from even entering. With a simple, and inexpensive pallette combining earth modelling and inexpensive materials, the framework for a new garden was delivered in four months.
Planting was then undertaken by St. Mungo’s ‘Putting Down Roots’ programme; which enlists street drinkers’ help installing and maintaining gardens - in quality, comparable to any in London. This in turn improved the behaviour of their colleagues, positively influencing public perception of both the space and of street drinkers.
With the assistance of regular visits from Lambeth’s Street Wardens and social services, and the involvement a newly formed Friends group, St. John’s was awarded Green Flag status two years after re-opening. It has become an oasis in a very built up area, where workers and students come to eat lunch and enjoy the surroundings. Mobile food vendors arrive at mid day, seasonal fetes are held here, and Southbank’s Fringe Festival theatres take up a two week’s residence every summer.
Borough of Lambeth
New London Architecture Urban Space Award 2012
This award-winning project demonstrated that streets can be remade into better places for people, not just for driving and storing cars; they can be places where children play, people sit, talk and garden. Shape brought the ‘Van Gogh’ theme to the fore here with a plant palette and pattern based on the artist’s use of colour and brush strokes, and introduction of sculptures (also to be used for play) referencing his paintings.
L&Q Housing Brent, London 2012
Unusually shaped sites present design challenges, particularly when trying to accommodate several different activities. This long, narrow site was an anonymous unused lawn, now animated with a busy under 12’s play area, gardening space, designated kickaround pitch and exercise stations. Potential conflicts between uses have been avoided by providing two different circulation routes (one bypassing the streetside childrens’ play) and putting the gardening in the middle of the site, where it separates the two more active use areas. Separation has been further emphasized with subtle level changes; these are not so extreme as to reduce visibility from the street, but significant enough to provide seating opportunities and a satisfying sense of arrival. Biodiversity has been greatly enhanced with meadow planting to three sides, pockets of berry-producing shrubs, an orchard, and a traditional hedgerow. A mixed shrub and flowering perennial bed along the street is offered to passers by as well as park users.
Thames Water/Borough of Bexley , London 2007
Combining habitat improvements with encouraging increased visitor numbers may seem like an unlikely brief.
Our work with Thames Water in the SouthEast London grazing marshes was fundamentally about extending and reprofiling ditches for water voles, and making several new wader scrapes for estuarine birds. But paths, bridges, viewing points, way finding markers, and interpretative exhibits to attract and inform visitors were included too. Respectful recreational use of the area was encouraged through a series of programmes for local youth. Conceived by Shape and run by Groundwork London, these included artisitic, educational, and athletic themed events, all focusing on the ecology of local rivers and marshes.
Concrete pilings and timber carcassing found on site were combined with galvanised steel gratings for an industrial aesthetic which suits the brown field character of the site.
Shape are frequently asked to upgrade worn or neglected problem outdoor spaces, reimagining their role and renovating to be attractive and better used by people of all ages and backgrounds.
Every design is a practical and sometimes playful response to local needs and to place. At Wyndham Estate, 6’ high concrete air shaft columns on a podium level plaza were demolished and replaced with low benches and decking; by improving sightlines and encouraging social use of the space, fear of crime has been reduced. Led by consultation responses, Shape designed two seating modules of candy coloured industrial strength fibreglass, installing them in varied combinations. These provide welcome distraction in otherwise bleak Brutalist surroundings. The same seats later the same year featured in a successful Chelsea Garden Show entry.
Aberconwy Borough Council, Llandudno 2002
Making places for people by rebalancing the amount of space given over to cars has been a consistent theme in Shape’s twenty years.
We were instrumental in obtaining £2m from the HLF for Aberconwy BC, using flood protection and tourist amenity projects already on the Council’s books to leverage funding which made Llandudno’s entire town centre its subject - renewing underused public spaces and gardens, restoring original features, and prioritising the pedestrian experience. The grant was the HLF’s first ‘Townscape Heritage’ award, made a year before the name and the programme were formally introduced.
Prince Edward Square, at the north end of Llandudno’s Conservation Area and next to its Victorian pier, had degraded over time into a car and coach park. The redesign employed radical roadway realignments to unblock popular walking routes between the town’s commercial centre and pier. A planned coastal defence wall was re-envisaged as cast-stone seating, bending respectfully around the Cenotaph. The existing green was expanded, and a quarter mile of ornamental, salt and wind tolerant planting installed along the seafront Promenade.
Borough of Lambeth, London 2013
A good fit was achieved with this play area, both in terms of how it sits within an existing green, and how it responds to community needs. Extensive consultation in advance of design confirmed preferences for location and for the type of play to provide. Equipped and natural play are combined within a small space, which particularly to a child’s eyes appears larger - filled with hills and hollows, lines of big rocks to climb on, log forests and forts to wander through, a small swing, and a tree house with a slide and sand pit to explore.
Adults have plenty of room too: several places to sit and socialise, and to store scooters or buggies. As in all Shape play areas, the design is an attractive addition to its setting, so the public can enjoy it, too.
The tree house and benches are bespoke Shape products, built by Southern Landscape & Construction.
Waterloo BID London, 2004
As a practice we find the Continental and Mediterranean model of a simple, paved square compelling; its use and character varies during the day, with the seasons, and the number and nature of its occupants. This speculative proposal for pedestrianisation of an important junction in a Conservation Area near Waterloo Station was developed through consultation with market traders and businesses on behalf of the local Business Improvement District. The study area was dominated by taxis and cars, the market’s rubbish compactor and a disjointed assemblage of materials; in contrast, the design suggested a single surface treatment - shared by cars, the market and pedestrians - inviting shoppers to enter and linger in Lower Marsh with clear sight lines, places to sit, and high quality, durable furnishings. While not progressed due to lack of funding, plans for renovating the plaza and Lower Marsh itself were realized when the adjacent Old Vic Theatre emerged as a high profile cultural destination.
London, 2004 - present
Playgrounds are essential places where children and parents alike can consolidate a collective, community identity and make friends. They should give children opportunities to be active, offer an array of social activities and interactions, and let them experience the out of doors in a safe and welcoming environment. A well designed play area is one children ask to go back to, and we recall with fondness years later.
London, 2004 - 2014
Historically, local retail centres had important social as well as economic roles.
These have been displaced by several factors, including the disruptive influence of an unnecessary amount of traffic - which designers can actually do something about. Shape’s first large commercial success was a pedestrianisation scheme in Llandudno (1999- 2002); our company remains involved in making spaces that renegotiate the balance between space given to people on foot (and bicycles) to vehicles, in the process improving the local business economy and the environment.
Our outline schemes:
• accomodate short term parking and goods deliveries,
• widen pavements,
• make crossings safer,
• reduce vehicle speeds,
• improve legibility, and remove clutter,
• address any anti-social behaviour (e.g., street drinking, illegal parking),
• introduce greenery,
• recommend SUDs.
We rely on a proven two-stage consultation process using models, visualisations, and questionnaires - introducing, then refining, concepts that are in concert with what local residents and businesses want. As advocates for accomplishing community goals, we have a good track record obtaining LIP funding: in addition to Llandudno, Shape’s plans for Ladywell Village, Emma Cons (Waterloo), Lower Marsh, and the Sandhurst shopping parade in Lewisham have all been built. In 2013, a team pairing Shape and forward-thinking transport engineers Civic, developed traffic calming and space-making proposals for several central Brixton sites; visually, these would reflect its history and character. The first stage of that work - a corner in front of the police station - is currently being progressed.
Borough of Southwark London, 2009
Many of Shape’s parks incorporate lawn-covered landforms. Manipulating the ground plane adds interest. as moving through a landscape with changing groundform keeps shifting our sense of perspective and scale. We use hills and level changes to make places inviting, suggest places to sit, and separate one area from another. Sometimes this can be done in perceptably dramatic fashion - its effects are amplified with the addition of furnishings and planting - and at other times the treatment is subtle.
At Chumleigh, three bands of triangles were alternatively lifted and lowered to make a series of hills and dips which were in turn pierced by paths linking the Aylesbury Estate with Burgess Park and the Chumleigh Almshouses. Moving from the estate and into the park, the size of the triangles decreased, until reaching a plaza, cafe terrace and fountain. Landforms and the walls and ledges that slice through them suggest opportunities for play and for congregating.
Borough of Lambeth, London 2015
This small triangle of open space is a stone’s throw from London’s Southbank, in a neighbourhood experiencing meteoric residential and commercial growth. Renovation required unpicking a tangle of longstanding antisocial behaviour, underinvestment, management by community groups with competing interests, and vocal opponents who disagreed with the Council promoting increasing use. Shape’s strategy for achieving consensus relied on a three-part approach, in turn based on our initial analysis of the existing site. Formal seating would only be provided near the busy pavement, but more convenient access points would be provided. Internally, some paths would be removed so the central lawn could be expanded the full length of the site; raising levels and giving it undulations made it more attractive to sit on and conversely not suited for playing football. At the back of the site, the existing quiet woodland character was enhanced with of low growing, shade tolerant underplanting
Lack of funds should not prevent the realisation of good ideas; Shape provided this not-for-profit community group with guidance on a staged route to making applications for grants and for Planning approvals, over a three year period. As small pots of money became available, diagrams, illustrations, and cost projections were produced, and initial consultations undertaken. The latter included both major stakeholders (the site a Grade II* Listed building in Brixton town centre) and the general public, identifying and prioritising both issues and opportunities. Shape produced the Design and Access Statement for the planning application, which is pending.
2002 - Present
Public gardens can delight our senses, build communities with a shared experience, and provide opportunities for relaxation or exercise; they can also have an important ecological function in providing habitat and food, capturing rainwater before it enters the stormwater sewer system, and reducing the ‘heat island’ effect in urban areas. Successful gardens require sensible and safe circulation, benefit from new uses and attractions (some providing a revenue funding stream), and an appropriate level of management and maintenance. While larger pots of capital allow use of higher quality materials and more extensive planting, the availability of revenue funding and the skill level of maintenance staff are key influences on design.
2002 - Present
Consultation is an essential part of Shape’s scope of services as it assists in the development of appropriate designs and increases the likelihood of successful outcomes. Involvement of local people can reduce the incidence of vandalism and anti-social behaviour and lead to a sense of ownership - in some cases, resident involvement such as involvement with ‘Friends of’ groups, or acting as a ‘project champion’.
Clear and accessible consultation materials:
- perspective illustrations
- structured questionnaires
- lightly scripted conversations help us obtain useful information and check levels of support before commencement, and as designs are progressed.
Shape are also keen on evaluating the performance of completed projects, visiting these in the weeks, years, and (in a few instances) decades following their installation.
Design for London, 2011
Shape mapped a large swathe of northwest London for DfLs ‘Green Grid’. This strategic plan identifies potential projects on open spaces available across several boroughs (mapping boundaries were based on watersheds), which when linked up would have a widespread regional effect, improving ecology, recreational opportunities, and stormwater management capacity. Strategic thinking, mapping, and project tracking were provided within DfL’s standardised framework.
Shape are on framework agreements for two of London's largest social housing providers, Peabody and Poplar HARCA.
We are currently working with Peabody in Thamesmead on a comprehensive wayfinding system, and with renovation of several play areas. The wayfinding, based on consultation conducted in 2015 and to be user-tested upon installation of pilots, combines signage and smart phone technologies (designed by Leitsytem) with landscape construction projects; the aim is to suggest to residents and visitors convenient and safe ways to walk or bicycle to local recreational amenities, and to help visitors, delivery companies, and the emergency services locate difficult to find addresses.
The illustrations are from the Framework competitions, and reflect Shape's thinking on how to make best use of often limited outdoor space in high density residential developments, suggesting how they might appeal to an age and ethnically diverse population. These illustrations would be used in consultations.
Shape can offer high quality site organisation for court and pitch construction projects, adding value by attractively arranging buildings and grounds, fitting these uses onto the site and considering options such as phased expansion, adjacent ancillary uses (parking, play areas, picnic areas, multi-use lawns), and providing a perimeter buffer. The pictured projects were all built to a high specification to qualify for Sport England funding.