Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park

Social and environmental sustainability in action

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Gascoigne West is undergoing a £350m transformation, led by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham’s development vehicle, BeFirst. The regeneration over three phases will provide up to 850 new homes under a masterplan designed by White Arkitekter, alongside a new public square and community centre.

Already a popular and well-integrated part of the Gascoigne estate community, Phoenix Park is a well-used pocket park on a piece of leftover land. The design by fabrik has proven robust and enduring, allowing the park to be used throughout the year, even during the winter months. As a focal point, Phoenix Park has activated a community spirit amongst the residents, who gather there for events, a catch up with neighbours or simply as the children play.  A well-designed space that has proven fabrik can deliver a place which makes a big social impact, on a piece of forgotten urban space.

Siu-Pei Choi
Principal Design Manager, Wates Residential

The area is home to one of the youngest populations in London, with more under 16 year olds than anywhere else in the UK.

Almost a third of all children live in poverty and unemployment is higher than average.  fabrik were invited by Wates to help them deliver the second phase, where a ‘meanwhile’ opportunity presented itself, ultimately becoming Phoenix Park.

A row of vacant buildings on the estate had become a magnet for anti-social behaviour. The buildings were demolished presenting a blank canvas on which to provide the community with a much needed temporary amenity space in which to gather and hold events, whilst the existing play area and open spaces in the estate are removed and replaced.  The project was based on the overarching principles:


  • Co-creation with the local community, ensuring diverse voices which were representative of the of the people living in the area
  • Embedding the principles of the circular economy to ensure the impact on the environment was minimised as much as possible
  • Stewardship by the local community.

There was a concerted drive by BeFirst to assemble and empower a group of volunteers, who would go on to become the Gascoigne Residents’ Forum (GRF).  Phoenix Park acted as a test bed for the forum, as their first outing as a co-design organisation.  The GRF was established in October 2020 to empower and create a stronger community, specifically to foster community cohesion, increase engagement with the community and increase transparency and accountability.  In order to do this, Be First with the support of partners, focused on capacity building by developing the Forum’s knowledge base of the planning and architectural process. As a result, the GRF were in a position to work more closely and effectively with Be First and its partners to identify and exploit opportunities in the estate renewal program, to critique and participate in the regeneration proposals to build a better Gascoigne. 

Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park

We worked closely with the GRF to ensure they were fully involved in the design process. As we were about to embark on work with the GRF, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and a radical shift to remote engagement was required. The co-design took place over monthly evening sessions on using a combination of tools, from interviews to digital postcards, online games and digital whiteboards, to keep residents engaged. We became the designers not of a space or a place, but the authors of a process that empowered the assembled group to make a series of decisions that would ultimately become Phoenix Park.

Phoenix Park

The park is designed around four themes identified by local residents - exercise, play, growing and contemplation. At the heart of the park is a stage area, which can be used for gatherings, events, communal dining, games and more. It includes a natural play area, gym corner, seating and stage area for relaxing in, garden area, large feasting table and a growing plot.

The park’s design orbited around the community coming together with a focus on circular economy principles – re-use, upcycle, legacy.  As a result, the project is an excellent example of minimising waste and protecting the environment, while creating something for the whole community to enjoy.  Joists, scaffolding, pallets and bathtubs were all rescued from the nearby demolition works and re-purposed as planters, decking, tables, benches and play features.  75% of the materials used on site were reclaimed and will be recycled at the end of the park’s lifespan, saving at least 150 tonnes of waste and 10,000 kg of CO2 emissions.  Any new materials such as planting or trees, will have a final, permanent location in the Gascoigne neighbourhood once it has been built.  The park was constructed by a mix of residents, local authority representatives and Be First volunteers, with the contractor’s supply chain also donating hundreds of hours. 

Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park

Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the design process was the strength of the bond that formed across GRF – they were strangers but became friends and, importantly for the life around the park, stewards of the space. The scheme was completed in summer 2021 and was celebrated with a COVID-safe opening ceremony and party organised by the residents themselves.  The event featured a host of activities, including table tennis, a children’s drawing competition and giant chess.  More people have since come forward, volunteering time and resources to plant and nature the space and a ‘Friends of Phoenix Park’ group has been established for its ongoing stewardship.  Weekends are dedicated to painting, planting and litter picking, and schedules have been arranged for maintenance. A programme of events reflects the community, from a Harvest Day Street Party, to an Easter Eggstravaganza and an Iftar event, where people bring a dish to share with their neighbours and pray and celebrate together.






National Urban Design Awards

The Pineapples



Phoenix Park, 105 Abbey Road, Barking






0.1 hectare

Partners & collaborators

  • Urban Symbiotics
  • Wates


Landscape design

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