Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Elly Ward

MA work

The Child and the Vertical City: Towards a New Street in the Sky

'If the only way is up, where will the children go?'

The continuing housing crisis provides an opportunity to re-examine post-war ideas about how to accommodate the city’s workers and their families in our increasingly vertical city. This proposal for a 32 storey tower revisits ‘streets-in-the-sky’ as articulated by the Smithson’s and other architects of that era and takes the theory to its absolute zenith with a one mile long continuous street spiralling upwards through its interior.

The design could be described as ‘Park Hill meets the Guggenheim’ and aspires to a vertical neighbourhood that embraces and encourages civic interaction, where the morning school run and the daily commute circumnavigate each other, and the milk delivery and rubbish collection take place centre stage on the street.  Primary public circulation is via the three metre wide central ramp - distinguished by the black and white stripes of an eternal zebra crossing.  Secondary circulation provides a screened layer of semi-public frontages to the apartments, offices and public amenities.  A tertiary self-contained route is just for children, connecting their bedrooms - perhaps through a secret door in the wardrobe - and running along the rooftops of the units underneath.

Sky Street exists in a scenario where corporations have once again assumed responsibility for housing their employees.  It references various model or ideal communities such as Bourneville and Port Sunlight, re-imagining them not as garden city suburbs but as urban high-rise.  Figurative ‘street’ language and materials are used to suggest a civic quality to the interior.  Externally the tower attempts to blend and disappear into the skyline, as much as any tower could, with sky-blue rendering and cloud-shaped balconies. And an occasional sunburst. 

This project arose out of a year-long study into the child’s experience of the city and how a now unknown freedom to play on and learn from the streets has been degraded in contemporary society. Such critique stimulated my proposal towards a more inclusive mixed-use tower for society at large, the possibilities of which I now continue to explore further in my own practice.


  • Elly Ward profile image
  • MA Degree


    School of Architecture


    MA Architecture, 2014

  • I work as a designer, illustrator and researcher within the field of architecture and I enjoy using playful narrative as a way to discuss societal issues. My thesis project at the Royal College of Art has been concerned with the child in the city and the seemingly irreconcilable paradox that exists in modern childhood: while modernity recognises the importance of free play for children’s development, contemporary society restricts this freedom through the well-intended pursuit to protect them. Research into urban play environments reveals that the problem is not so much the quality of the city's provision, but rather the increasing isolation of children from city life. And in turn, city life suffers too.

    In 'The Child and the Vertical City' my proposal for a 'SuperCreche' revisits utopian co-housing principles and considers the emergent typology of the mixed-use skyscraper as a potential site. Is it possible to create an environment within which children can safely experience, play and learn while supervised by a caring, but select, adult community? And could the shared supervision of children result in a reciprocally enhanced existence? Or is the very notion that the richness and diversity of city life could ever be simulated inside an essentially gated neighbourhood, however generous and playful, implicitly impossible in its realisation?

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), Architecture, London Metropolitan University, 2011
  • Experience

  • Founding Director, Ordinary Architecture Limited, 2013-present; Architectural assistant, FAT, London, 2009–2013; Architectural assistant, RSAUD, Los Angeles, 2012; Architectural assistant, Muf Art/Architecture, London, 2010–11; Architectural assistant, dRMM, London, 2011
  • Exhibitions

  • President's Medal Awards, Royal Institute of British Architects, London & Liverpool, 2010; Premature Exhibitionism, Gopher Hole, London, 2012; Royal Academy Summer Show, Royal Academy of Art, London, 2012
  • Awards

  • Winner, Best Design Project (Architecture), London Metropolitan University, 2010; Nomination, RIBA President's Medals Student Award Bronze Medal, 2010
  • Conferences

  • Big Shed Society, Rip It Up And Start Again, London Metropolitan University/Gopher Hole, 2011; Shared Spaces + Shared Conversations, Celebration Week (Chair), London Metropolitan University, 2011; Re-Imagining Monkston, London Metropolitan University, 2010
  • Publications

  • Best Student Projects in Britain, Owen Pritchard, Blueprint, 2010; Top Ten Architecture Units, Will Hunter, Architectural Review, 2010; Architecture & Morality, Hugh Pearman, RIBA Journal, 2013; Student Shows – The Critics, Olly Wainwright, Architects Journal, 2010