Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad and children from the Portman Early Childhood Centre set out to produce evidence on the possibility of the local built environment as non-prescriptive spaces of 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 to 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, Bahbak introduced a series of open-ended ‘parts’ to support the affordances identified by the group. These readily available objects including ropes, wooden planks, bread crates, debris mesh, and pipes and 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? and how can the adult permissive agents of play begin to perceive the built environment through a child's perspective.

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

Commissioned as part of Changing Play, Serpentine Galleries, 2017-2018