The Scots Pine Cloud Observatory

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Playful interventions encouraging children to orienteer to a new playground inside Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The Scots Pine Cloud Observatory is the result of a community engagement project for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The project's focus was around the park opening to the public in July 2013 with a new 'Scots Pine Playground' and 'Timber Lodge' community centre. The project's aim was to create interventions that encourage local children to orienteer towards the playground. Secondly we were invited to design a permanent treatment to the playground itself.

Research unearthed the sites extraordinary links to clouds and steam. In 1803 Luke Howard invented cloud classification in the area. Timber Lodge is located where the Great Eastern Railway once built 1600 steam locomotives. Just outside the park Britain's first dry cleaners stood as did Walter Hancock's pioneering steam workshop. The Scots Pine Cloud Observatory was a response to these local connections to clouds and steam as well as the nest-like tower of the new playground.

  • experience: Experiences / Interactions / Interventions / Communication Ecosystems / Placemaking / Location specific communication
  • communication: Identity / Campaign / Applied Graphics / Wayfinding / Environments
Urban interventions for The Scots Pine Cloud Observatory
Children could tear off a copy to take with them
They featured information about the area's link to clouds and the opening of the Olympic Park
Interventions were informed by workshops with local schools, cubs, girls brigades and scout groups from communities surrounding the Olympic Park. These children then became the audience for the interventions
The reverse side also featured a walking map of how to get to the new playground from the intervention's location

Interventions were placed in the Olympic Park's surrounding neighbourhoods of Hackney Wick, Mabley Green and Leyton.

Giant hanging Cloud Mobiles hailed the start of the walking route from each location to the park and encouraged children to participate and play with the interventions that followed.

The mobiles grouped clouds by their altitudes and provided information about different cloud types and the new playground
To help children understand the altitude of clouds (i.e Cirrus 42,500ft) the Cloud/Maps were sized 1ft x 1ft
Maps helped children orientate towards the Olympic Park and the new playground

As an extension of the community engagement project we designed two small permanent treatments for the playground to act as a legacy of the project.

The focal point of the playground is a large climbable tower made of Scots Pines; we named this the ‘Scots Pine Cloud Observatory’ and punctuated the climb to the top of the observatory with plaques that help identify different cloud types and make games of finding shapes in the clouds.

We named a climbing tower in the playground 'The Scots Pine Cloud Observatory'
Plaques invited children to identify clouds and discover their own shapes in the sky
Different clouds were positioned relative to their altitude on the climb to the top of the Observatory
Three Kaleido-periscopes (Strato, Alto & Cirro) continued the concept on the ground for disabled access

The Scots Pine Cloud Observatory was awarded in the 2013 Creative Review Awards Annual

Commissioned by Ashley McCormick Projects for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Tumbling Bay & Timber Lodge designed by Erect Architects.
Playground design and build by APE.