Traditionally presented as a landscape architect, Lady Allen of Hurtwood (1897-1976) stood out in this field so related to aesthetic and perception. However she will be protagonist in a way of making architecture apparently far from that visual and romantic world of the landscape. She was related to action, recycling and waste. In particular, she identified childhood and play spaces as a target to study. Her studies quickly go to practice through her dirty parks, authentic “urban laboratories”, areas where she manage to experiment with topographies, with free play and with the self-construction, all seasoned with a good dose or risk. She provides children with materials, many of them informal, recycled pieces of remnants of constructions or demolitions, her old pictures unloading her private vehicle and taking out drums full of paint, brushes, and tools for children show her energy and conviction. The playgrounds that she executed/projected were authentic adventures, adventures where the participants were main actors who had part in the game but also in the execution, where ditches are excavated, tools are used or set on fire…
In a triple somersault attempt and to make history even more difficult, her first prototypes were dedicate to children with reduced mobility, mutilated or people with reduced mobility. Precisely the forgotten, those who were completely away from the playground and any attraction were the protagonists of incredible parks with impossible ramps where children were launched in wooden carts built by themselves. Still far from the models of inclusion that currently are trying to be defended since the point of view of the pedagogy in the recreational and educational spaces, Lady Allen offered these spaces in the London where she had to live.
Her publication Adventure Playgrounds, fruit of her experience replicating more than 500 game “laboratories” is today a guide full of modernity and completely valid since a pedagogical point of view, the risk remains a fundamental factor in the development of childhood and its management a delicate topic of discussion.
What Lady Allen offers us in her work is not a project, nor a catalogue of game elements, it is rather a guide of good practices, an approach to face the game space in a universal way, an architecture that allows to be educational, funny and liberating.