The Adventure Playground: Out of the Sandbox and Into the City by Sol Pérez-Martínez

An image of children playing on a tree in front of a building of flats, with the text 'The Adventure Playgrounds: The Architectures of Contemporary Play' written in black font overlaid onto the image
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In his 1970s book, The Child in the City, radical writer Colin Ward uses the sandpit – a common element of playgrounds worldwide – to reflect on the relationship between people and their environments in post-war Britain. On the one hand, the sandpit is a confined box where supervised children are set aside to play. In a scenario similar to fenced playgrounds with swings and roundabouts, the sandbox separates the child from the city, limiting children’s play to the adult’s design and control. On the other hand, for Ward, the sandbox is also a place where children are left to their own devices to create imagined worlds. Thus, the sandbox allows young people to exercise their autonomy, collaboration, and creativity; like a smaller version of the adventure playground, which was, for Ward, ideal for spontaneous play.

Ward celebrated the adventure playground as a miniature of a free society where children engage in the continuous process of construction and destruction, collaboration and individual work, preparing them for freedom and responsibility in the real world. Ward then asks, what if instead of adding toys to the sandpit, we help children “climb out of the sandbox and into the city?”

In this talk, Sol Perez Martinez will explore how groups inspired by Ward’s ideas helped children and other marginalized groups make the city their playground during the 1970s. Sol will unpack how Ward writes about children’s relationship to play spaces to critique top-down city planning, advocating instead for a broader engagement in urban change. Finally, the talk will uncover how these past practices are reemerging in new groups in Britain today.

The Adventure Playground: Architectures of Contemporary Play is a series of exploratory talks and propositions that investigates processes of play and imagination and their role in built environments and the designed spaces of playgrounds in Britain. It brings forward the architectural and political history of playgrounds as dedicated spaces for children across contemporary cities and centres on the idea of ‘creating worlds’.

About the event


Limited Capacity.

Booking is required.

We are unable to provide British Sign Language interpretation for this event.

The duration of the event is one and a half hours. Seated.


Find information about getting here and our building access and facilities here.

This event will take place in the galleries and is wheelchair accessible.

There are no audio descriptions for this event.

If you have any questions around access or have specific access requirements we can accommodate, please get in touch with us by emailing

Safety during your visit

Due to COVID precautions, please do not attend this event if you/someone in your household is currently COVID-19 positive, has suspected symptoms, or is awaiting test results.

Please observe social distancing.

Staff and visitors are encouraged to wear a face mask in all areas (unless medically exempt).

You can find more details about how we're keeping everyone safe here.

Sol Pérez-Martínez is an architect, researcher and educator. After receiving her architecture and master’s degree from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Sol ran an architectural practice where she and her firm partners developed projects for private clients and the Chilean government. Their last public building in 2014 was a school in the South of Chile, which inspired her research about architecture, education and public engagement. Since then, Sol has collaborated with teachers, artists, architects and community groups in public history projects, curating educational programs, conferences and exhibitions to widen the public’s involvement in architecture and the built environment.

Sol has lectured at The Bartlett as a module leader for the MSc Learning Environments and at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile as part of the undergraduate architecture programme. She has also been invited to present her work internationally, including at the Whitechapel Gallery, Tate Exchange, Slough Museum, Urban Education Live, Folkestone Triennale, Central Saint Martins and Max Planck Institute.

Sol holds a PhD in Architecture & Education from The Bartlett and the Institute of Education at UCL, as well as a Master in Architectural History from the same university. In addition, Sol has received grants and fellowships in support of her research from the Chilean Government, The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Sol has participated as a consultant, critic, and advisor in community groups and universities in Chile and the UK. Currently, she is postdoctoral fellow at the Group Hultzsch (gta-ETH Zurich) in the project ‘Women Writing Architecture’. Her postdoctoral research focuses on the experiences of Latin American women writing about architecture and the built environment.

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