AREA landscape architects

Gillespie Park

Phase 1 - New Entrance

A new pedestrian entrance to Gillespie Park on the site of a derelict toilet block. The soaring timber lattice canopy announces the gateway to Gillespie Park and the Islington Ecology Centre.   

Being in the shadow of Arsenal Football Club’s vast Emirate’s Stadium demanded a visually arresting response, whilst the ethos of the Ecology Centre is signposted through dramatic use of timber.  The  canopy  establishes an organic relationship with the site within, much of which is self-seeded woodland in an area of former railway sidings.

 Phase 2 - Woodland Play

The new woodland play area in the Gillespie Park Nature Reserve has opened up an area of self-seeded woodland on heavily contaminated land, previously mainly only occupied for drug taking and dumping rubbish.   

At the heart of the playground is a ‘woodland glade’ accessed via boardwalks which weave through the birch trunks, and  incorporating natural play features including play boulders, wildlife viewing hides, woven willow domes, timber for constructing dens, native planting and a pergola. The ground conditions coupled with the sustainability agenda and a tight budget meant minimal excavations, demolitions or tree removals, so we took an approach of carefully floating elements through and on top of the existing.  

This new facility, which is an extension to an urban nature reserve, provides the public, and particularly young children, the opportunity to interact with nature whilst enjoying the thrill of adventurous play in this heavily populated and built-up part of London.    It  is used by schools, community groups for semi-structured play activities, as well as freely by local kids and parents.


Consulting engineer      Built Engineers
Canopy fabrication        Cowley Timberwork
Landscape contractor   RCP Landscapes        
For London Borough of Islington Greenspace 

New entrance completed July 2009Woodland Play completed 2011