Primary school children in London have created temporary performance structures as part of the Let's Build community project, organised by architecture educator Matt+Fiona to engage the local community.
Children aged eight to 11 from four London schools – Christ Church Streatham, Hillmead, Richard Atkins and St John's Angell Town – came together to build plywood stages decorated with red netting for a performance space in Brixton House theatre.
Matt+Fiona organised the Let's Build project to teach students creative and practical building skills that it believes are disappearing from schools.
"Children and young people are becoming more and more disenfranchised from their built environment, and arguably even their own imaginations," said Matt+Fiona co-founder Fiona MacDonald.
According to MacDonald, 760 youth centres have closed since 2010 and the number of students studying design and technology at GCSE level fell by 66 per cent between 2010 and 2020.
"Design and build projects of this kind are invaluable in helping to fill the gap left behind," she told Dezeen. "They give young people the agency to shape their own environments and grow in confidence and their own identities."
Let's Build was commissioned by Brixton House, which wanted Matt+Fiona to develop a community outreach project to engage young people in the local area.
The design brief for the theatre project was set by a group of students in 2019, who wanted to create a performance space that blurred the boundary between performers and audience, but the project was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was picked up again in 2022 when a new cohort of students from the same four schools developed the brief into a design through a series of workshops.
Over five days in March 2023, students and volunteers measured and cut timber and constructed multiple triangular stages in a theatre space in Brixton House.
"The pre-pandemic ideas explored performance as a non-hierarchical theatrical artform where the boundary between performer and audience is blurred," said Matt+Fiona co-founder Matthew Springett.
"They created a space that was kinetic and could be transformed physically, allowing for a range of activities and performance styles."
"The new students were able to review the past students' work and adapt the key design moves to make it their own through model-making and performance workshops," Springett continued.
The performance structures remain in the theatre for schools and community groups to use for free, and will also be used as a rehearsal space for the Brixton House Youth Theatre.
After its use in the theatre, Brixton House plans to donate the structures to any interested schools or community groups.
"Performance and play bring people together, activate communities and engender a sense of belonging and purpose, and in a landscape altered by the Covid-19 pandemic, when children faced severe levels of loneliness and isolation, this project brings opportunity to nurture creativity and rebuild the confidence and aspirations of the young people involved," said Matt+Fiona.
Other building projects organised by Matt+Fiona to engage children include a sensory playground designed for children with autism and a creative lab made in collaboration with 100 primary school children.
The photography is by French+Tye unless stated.