On What Grounds

1 February 2017 — 9 January 2019

Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad and children from the Portman Early Childhood Centre set out to activate the local built environment as a space for free play and imagination.

On What Grounds centres on the area surrounding Parson’s House NW8 London – a never-fully-realised 21-storey tower block within short walking distance from the Portman Early Childhood Centre. Over 10 weeks, Hashemi-Nezhad and a group of 3–4 year old children made weekly visits to the site, playing in and with its open spaces, hidden corners, vantage points, contrasting scales and surfaces.

Through dialogue and observation, Hashemi-Nezhad introduced a series of open-ended ‘parts’ to support and extend the groups interaction with the environment. These readily available objects, including ropes, wooden planks, bread crates, debris mesh and pipes, served to connect the children’s actions and interests with the architectural spaces and natural elements found at the site.

On What Grounds stakes a claim for children’s right to play beyond the limitations of formal playgrounds, asking: What are the physical and imaginative qualities of a play space? Where are the spaces for children in the city?

As an extension of his residency, Hashemi-Nezhad collated the methods, tools and visual evidence from the project to produce a short film and series of play kits. He shared it with local children’s centres and parents to help identify and activate spaces for free play within the city.

Changing Play is an ongoing partnership with the Portman Early Childhood Centre in Westminster, which brings together artists, children, families and educators to critically reconsider early years education and care.

Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad

Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad’s practice draws on play theory and defamiliarisation as contextual research tools for developing methodologies that critically engage publics within design processes spanning the domestic and public realm–from neighbourhood plans, interior and exterior spaces to recipes, games and objects.

Hashemi-Nezhad has exhibited and conducted workshops extensively both in the UK and internationally, including with the Serpentine Galleries, London; Liverpool Biennial; Shanghai Biennale; Tokyo Design Week; MACBA, Barcelona; LCCA, Riga; and CCA, Singapore. He is the recipient of a number of international design awards and fellowships, and is part of Theatrum Mundi/Global Street, an international interdisciplinary research project from London School of Economics which brings architects, designers and artists together to re-imagine public space. Hashemi-Nezhad holds an MA in Design Products from the Royal College of Art, London where he currently leads a Masters platform focusing on experimental participatory design.

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