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Competition: Red Brick field, Plymouth

Plymouth City Council in England is looking for an architect for a low-cost revamp of Red Brick field within the suburb of Barne Barton (Deadline: 9 November)

The £30,000 project, backed by socially engaged arts organisation Take A Part, will regenerate the ‘uninspiring’ 0.5ha plot (pictured), which opened two years ago.

The ambitious scheme, planned to complete next year, will introduce a new landmark gateway, seating, play facilities, landscaping and way marking to the park.

Plymouth, England

Plymouth, England

Red Brick field

According to the brief: ‘As a consequence of the construction of a new waste incinerator to the south east of Barne Barton, the client group is in receipt of £30,000 in section 106 monies to be spent on improvements to benefit quality of life in the community.

‘It is the intention of the client group to commission an original and distinctive proposal for improvements that activate the space, enhance the function and identity of the field, and encourage greater use by the community.’

Barne Barton is around 5km from the city centre, north of the Devonport naval base. It was originally built as a naval estate providing married quarters for Ministry of Defence staff, but was transformed into social housing in the early 1990s.

It is now the seventh most deprived neighbourhood in Plymouth. The Red Brick estate was designed by local practice ADG, and constructed on the site of Barne Barton Secondary School in 1992.

Plymouth, England

Plymouth, England

Red Brick field

The competition site is landlocked green space which had previously earmarked for more housing. It features a half-sized football pitch, some five-a-side goals, a community orchard, a bin and a shipping container for storage.

Proposals should include a new gateway feature that creates a sense of arrival and reinforces local history and identity; as well as play facilities for ‘kerby’ ball games, a gateway to the community orchard, seating and signage directing visitors to the site.

Participating teams should have experience designing public-realm projects and be capable of working collaboratively with the client and local community. Applications should include a CV and a portfolio detailing four previous relevant projects.

Judges include Pat Patel of the Tamar View Community Centre, Debbie Burton from Plymouth City Council and Beth Richards of Take A Part.

Up to four shortlisted teams will receive £200 each to draw up conceptual proposals and attend an interview on 17 November. The winning team – set to be announced on 21 November – will receive the design commission, with the project set to complete in 2017.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 5pm on 9 November.

Contact details

Christine Auguste
Plymouth City Council
Windsor House
Floor 3

Tel: +441752305697
Fax: +441752304923

View the request for qualifications and project brief for more information

Clapton Common case study: Q&A with Susanne Tutsch

The director at Erect Architecture discusses lessons learned designing a new play space for Clapton Common in London

How did your Clapton Common play area project create a new high-quality and low-cost amenity space for the local community?

From the outset we worked very closely with a very engaged community group (they were even part of the interview panel at tendering stage). It was key to establish exactly what kind of features would actually be most used by the community and spend the tight budget only on that. As the community make-up in the area was very specific, usually popular elements such as sand and loose fill safety surfacing were discarded early on as one large local faith group considered them untouchable and dirty.



Clapton Common play space by Erect Architecture

The community also insisted on a fence, which presented a considerable cost without real play value. Conversations about this need reduced the extent to zone only the early years’ area. We decided to use play features and benches to create the required barrier. Our design for the early years’ area is ultimately one big inhabitable, playable fence. We were also conscious of material cost, for example using locally sourced cheap natural timbers for parts of the scheme.

Which material, structural and other design methods are available to architects seeking a similarly impressive outcome?

Being in the public realm, the design will need to be either ultra-robust or properly looked after by an interested local community (or both). Establishing potential collaborations early on will establish what is achievable with the budget. Thinking critically about actual need and use, combined with an exploration into how features can have more than one purpose will ensure the budget is spent wisely and every part of the scheme works hard.



Clapton Common play space by Erect Architecture

What issues might be important when designing a low-cost transformation for a public space such as Red Brick Field?

Enthusiasm: Bringing along heaps and creating buckets full.

Community & Collaboration: Working closely with the community from the outset, exploring site and brief, properly understanding and questioning needs.

Ensure Components Work Extra Hard: Take the ‘entrance feature’ for example, being the most expensive item on the ‘menu’ – what additional uses could it have?

Further Funding: At Clapton Common the community raised large amounts of additional funding. Can something similar be achieved? What are potential methods?

Utilising Free Resources: Establishing local interest, skill sets and potential collaborations. Is there potential for an element of self-build? Can other labour and funding be tapped into, such as Corporate Social Responsibility (not permitted to work with power tools they are able to assemble etc and pay for materials) or apprenticeship programmes?



Clapton Common play space by Erect Architecture