A Torrington Square Adventure
MLA Landscape Architecture / Y1 Term 1
This project proposes a new design for Torrington Square in Bloomsbury, London. Situated between central university buildings, it is currently an under-utilised space of transit.
The proposed design stages moments of play as invitations to look closely and engage with landscape. By challenging the conventions of play as visible, obvious, and physically based, A Torrington Square Adventure encourages play in all its forms, framing play as for everyone.
The experience of visiting the site is organised around a hiking trail as metaphor. Spaces in the site oscillate between reflective and energetic, varying intensities of excitement and curiosity in a hierarchy of moments that encourage people to look beyond the obvious.
There are obvious play features, like the Trampoline Field and Torrington Summit, but there are even more invitations to be curious in the landscape. These range from unexpectedly bouncy paths, to vividly coloured ground materials; from strongly scented plantings with elongated flowering periods, to textural grasses that wave in the wind; and from sculptural topographies that obscure and reveal views, to unusual seating morphologies that challenge urban materiality and invite alternative inhabitations of space.
Creating moments to pause between and at the key attractions of the site (Trampoline Field and Torrington Summit) allows and encourages this form of mental play. This is a practice of reflection that directly responds to the site’s invitations to be curious, look closely, and notice the unusual landscape. This opens up practices of play to disabled people and elderly people who might not be able to engage with the conventional forms of play found in playgrounds, such as trampolines, swings, slides, and climbing frames.
Torrington Square is a place for everyone to play, go on an adventure through their mind, and uncover new ways of inhabiting the urban landscape.
The site allocated for the design project was the southern half of Torrington Square, Bloomsbury. This is a site characterised by vertical drama, a strong north-south axis, and its role as an interface between university buildings.
A series of site observations expored how the site is currently a space of transit, with limited formal conditions for dwelling.
Therefore the design proposal looked to explore how we can imbue the experience of visiting Torrington Square with a sense of curiosity, as a playful urban landform that encourages people to stay, look closely, and engage with an urban landscape.
A series of top trump cards were used during site analysis. Cross-examination of these different conditions of dwelling helped me to select ‘The Secluded One’ as a particularly well-performing aspect of the existing site.
The modelling of one bench at 1:10 scale helped me to understand what made this aspect of the existing site perform well, helping to inform my design proposal.
A series of process renders and sketches were used to open up the project, thinking about how the topography of the site could be manipulated in ways that challenge urban materiality and form.
They pushed the boundaries of how the site could be interpreted, how street furniture could be configured, and how the site could cultivate practices of play: inviting users of the space to look closely, be curious, and inhabit Torrington Square in a more engaged way.
These experiments formed a turning point in the project, where I moved to consider how we can imbue the experience of visiting Torrington Square with a sense of curiosity, as a playful urban landform.
What happens if we pull up the ground plane
into an urban mountain?
What if we wrap the topography around a bench
to create a secluded pocket of space?
What if we deploy topography as an element of surprise,
obscuring a series of trampolines, to challenge what you
might expect to find in the centre of London?
What if we challenge the conventions of urban form
and materiality by combining boulders and bike racks
into a hybrid form? How can we re-imagine the space
of Torrington Square as a destination park and as call
to notice details in the urban landscape?