About us

Theories Landscapes was founded back in 1983. We are one of the UK’s oldest bespoke playground design companies.

We’re fully insured and boast an extensive list of references, with a fantastic reputation throughout the UK.

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Interactive • Social • Physical • Educational • Natural • Environmental

 

Welcome to Theories Landscapes. We work with schools, local authorities, private concerns, holiday resorts and campsites to create exciting natural playgrounds for interactive and educational play.

If you have an idea we can develop it and turn it into a reality.

We’re passionate about play and recreational education, creating so much more than a mere play space with off-the-shelf equipment like climbing frames and swings.

All of your soon-to-be play areas are a blank canvas with limitless potential. We look to create imaginative areas for sitting, talking, studying, playing, running, jumping and laughing – all the different aspects of children’s play, which is such an important part of growing up.

Founded in 1983, we are one of the UK’s oldest bespoke playground design companies. Fully insured and boasting an extensive list of references, we have a fantastic reputation not just in the many London, schools we have worked with, but throughout the UK. It has been said “When it comes to natural playgrounds, no one does it better than Theories Landscapes”.

Sustainability and environmental conservation are at the forefront of our minds at all times. We hope to instill these values within the children who enjoy our playscapes and school playgrounds.

Our team takes in a real range of professions, including:

  • Playground design specialists
  • Artists
  • Sculptors
  • Builders
  • Landscapers

We handle the hands-on aspect of supplying and installing safe playground and playscape equipment, from climbing frames to adventure trails.

We’re versatile, designing playgrounds and play spaces for nurseries, receptions, primary schools and secondary schools, for parks and public spaces, holiday parks and campsites.

Part of the reason we are such a popular choice for playground design and school playground equipment, is the way we approach our work – we’re quick, efficient, on budget, on time and where possible invite those that will be using the play spaces in schools to get involved in some of the creative development.

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What Makes us Special

We are passionate about what we do. It sounds cliché, but our team believes that a play area should be a stage on which a child’s imagination can run wild, whether they’re actively playing or taking time to talk and socialise with their friends. That’s why we place such an emphasis on the creative side of our work, incorporating decorative art to really make a statement.

While it’s important that our natural playgrounds are fun and safe, they also need to be affordable. That’s why we always make sure to work within the budgets that our clients set aside for a play area.

Another thing that sets us apart from the crowd – we listen.

We always listening to parents, stakeholders and the children themselves. We believe that children are the best ones to consult when it comes to playground design, after all – they’re the ones who’ll be using it!

Involving children in the design process can do wonders for their confidence and influence how successful our natural playgrounds are (how often school playground equipment is used, for example). But we’ll work closely alongside everyone involved in the process, offering advice from a project’s conception through to completion.

Ultimately, we provide:

  • Design expertise
  • Fixed price contract and long-term guarantees
  • A friendly, transparent playground design and build process
  • Aftercare and a long-lasting professional relationship
  • Problem solving capabilities at every stage
  • In-depth consultations with all involved
  • Construction of all elements
  • Supply of all required school playground equipment
Theories’ story from the perspective of one of its founders, Jerry Cooper.

Theories was founded on the 13th of July 1983 by John Alderson and Jerry Cooper.

We worked in the beginning from desks on our respective stair landings in our homes and garnered a small supply of tools that were stored in an old VW van parked in the street. We took on painting and decorating jobs as well as garden maintenance and a stint as a bicycle courier to make ends meet.

From small beginnings

Both John and Jerry had developed our ‘build’ skills on short life housing projects in Hackney where we had been a part of a cooperative that had renovated a row of derelict houses. We both found that we enjoyed the transition of an idea into fact by act of our hands, and the ability to stand back at the end of the day and see a ‘product’. Design and build entered our DNA.

John was a qualified teacher and had a Sculpture degree. Jerry had obtained a BA and Diploma in Architecture but had been disillusioned by the limitations of the office reality.

John and Jerry forged their partnership working on a Community Garden project in Hackney Grove E8 that we built over a period of 1.5 years. We discovered that the needs of the more elderly and younger residents were not necessarily mutually exclusive but could be subliminally reconciled into one space. It taught us that play can take place anywhere and that the quality of the space can be more conducive to a variety of play activities than the so-called play equipment itself.

And so, play theory informed our name. The theory was simple. Make beautiful spaces in which children would enjoy and feel comfortable and safe playing.
Play; we maintained, was an activity that took place between children and did not necessarily have to rely upon play apparatus. Indeed; we maintained that the concept underlying the design of modern play equipment itself was based upon a rather simplistic Victorian attitude towards children’s health and physical development that drew nothing from children’s ability to play with each other imaginatively.

‘Theories’ was initially funded as a part of the Enterprise Allowance scheme, devised by a Conservative government, to encourage young entrepreneurs off the dole to start their own small businesses. We were given a grant the equivalent of the dole @ £40/week for 1 year.

We placed a great deal of importance in our designs upon the natural environment as a play resource, incorporating landscape features and planting wherever budgets or clients agreed. Hence the title ‘Theories Landscapes’. In this way we hoped to create more intimate spaces that encouraged imagination play activities as well as providing a means for children to engage with nature.

We also observed that children played in different ways and needed a range of possible play solutions and activities. For instance, we often noticed that girls would sit directly opposite each other to socialise whilst boys often sat predominantly adjacent to each other in a perhaps less intimate way. So, we devised a range of seating configurations to suit this observation. For instance, some children were happy to run around for an hour screaming or kicking a ball while others sat or stood, if there were no seats, quietly against a wall at the edge. So, we devised quiet as well as active play areas, or encouraged the school to provide library wagons and play props.

I feel that we were somewhat ahead of our times and found ourselves up against a school’s unimaginative or undemanding commissioning bodies whose play expectations were limited to the catalogues of generic manufactured play equipment. Playtime is an activity that often takes-up more time in the school day than the classroom itself and yet continues to be treated as a simple exercise yard to waste time and expend surplus energy before returning to the classroom.

John left Theories in 2003 to pursue his own brand of play design. Jerry continued to lead Theories until his retirement in 2016 as its sole director but had always been supported by highly skilled and motivated design and build teams without whom Theories could never have been as successful.

Theories was then taken over by ex-employees Jacek Maklakiewicz who continue to steer it to greater success to this day.

Theories’ fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the decades bending with the prevailing play funding climate, political agendas and not least COVID.

From 1983 till 2023, 40 years, Theories has survived, developed, changed but continues to thrive offering an alternative spectrum of play solutions, and long may it continue.

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What schools are saying about us

“’We are thrilled with the new playground, the children love it and it does make the teachers’ work easier as the set up is so accessible and easy to maintain.

The climbing frame works really well, the children use both the upper and lower level, which is a home corner at the moment. As we are outdoors in all weathers the climbing frame not only offers shelter but it’s an exciting and relaxing place to be in. The design enables the children to lead and initiate different games in different areas rather than just run around dangerously.’”

Joanna

Ey Leader, Copenhagen Primary

“Theories have been essential in helping us realise our plan for a new and innovative adventure playground. It has proved highly successful and popular with the local children and staff alike. The play environment designed by Theories is supporting creative play activities in many different and varied ways.”

Tim Wallder

Play Director, IGC

“Theories have consistently been able to listen to our staff’s wishes as well as the needs of individual children and go on to create unique, challenging and interesting play environments where every nook and cranny counts and where every child can explore their own varied play needs safely and happily.

Theories are a one-stop professional playground solution, seamlessly integrating every aspect from helping formulate a design brief, producing design proposals and budgets, to carrying out the build contract with their own skilled staff, and finally offering on-going maintenance support.”

Stewart Harris

Head, Phoenix Primary School, E3

Get started today!

Tell us about your vision

We’re very happy to chat with you about your school playground ideas and answer any initial questions that you may have about Theories Landscapes, so why not give us a call or send us an email, it costs you nothing and could be the start of something wonderful that enhances your school and your pupils’ lives for years to come..

Give us a call or send us an email

Call us on 0207 547282

Our office hours are 8am – 5pm, Monday to Friday

Email info@theorieslandscapes.co.uk

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Download our Brochure

Download our brochure for an insight into how we work with you to create your palyspace and some of the sectors we work with such as schools, parks and public spaces, holiday parks and camp sites and farm attractions.

Our brochure also introduces Theories Golf, our one-stop-shop for indoor and outdoor adventure and crazy golf course design and construction.

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