Madagascar Play at Chester Zoo

“Decades of research has shown that play is crucial to physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development at all ages. This is especially true of the purest form of play: the unstructured, self-motivated, imaginative, independent kind, where children initiate their own games and even invent their own rules.”

Can We Play? by David Elkind

Project: Madagascar Play at Chester Zoo

Year of Completion: 2017

Budget: £450,000

Client: Chester Zoo

Project Team: BCA Landscape, Handspring Design, Lanes Landscape, Timber Play

Having fun is no trivial pursuit. Most of us think of adult play as respite or indulgence, but having fun is no trivial pursuit. In fact, it’s crucial to our mental health and happiness. The project expands the variety and type of play offer that was previously in the zoo and encourages higher forms of imaginary and creative social play within a series of exciting and flexible spaces.

Through creative innovation and careful design consideration it combines and balances all the latest thinking and research in the realms of the psychology of play and communication friendly spaces, with the needs of the zoo and its staff and a fascinating and playful exploration of the wonderful island of Madagascar.

There are a number of key themes and objectives that run through the scheme, including :- the use of Natural materials and a need to create a deeper connection with nature, the creation of welcoming and innovative people niches – for kids, teenagers, adults, grandparents and families and a flexible landscape where children can manipulate their environment to suit their imagination.

The design also encourages open-ended moments of playfulness and imaginative play with ambiguous and fascinating environmental modifications. It introduces a variety of different sized and shaped spaces with varied surfaces that engender different types of play experience, including areas for shelter in inclement weather, ultimately setting the scene to encourage higher forms of social play and natural child-led explorations.