Monday, March 31, 2008

"Leaps and Boundaries" in the New York Times

Last week's NYT article on children's playgrounds features the West 110th Street Playground at the north end of Central Park, above. Except for the strikingly beautiful setting, and the circular forms that echo it, I find this a rather barren construct...why so much empty space around that lonely single tire swing?

The article reviews a new book, " Designing Modern Childhoods: History, Space, and the Material Culture of Children", which is a compilation of essays, tracing how various "specialized architectures (schools, hospitals, playgrounds, houses) and objects (cellphones, snowboards, the McDonald’s Happy Meal) have molded the landscape of children’s private lives. " [Rutgers University Press, edited by Gutman and Coninck-Smith].
I haven't read it...let me know if you have and what you think.

Are 'natural' playgrounds better?

Link to a 2004 article which used GPS/GIS systems to compare 5-7 year olds who played in a natural environment versus a traditional playground.

"When provided with a natural landscape in which to play, children showed a statistically significant increase in motor fitness. There were also significant differences between the two groups in balance and co-ordination in favor of the experimental group. The findings indicate that landscape features influence physical activity play and motor development in children "

[Images above also from FreePlay, of a Freiburg park. City officials there have decided to replace aging conventional playgrounds with natural play spaces that incorporate mounds, ditches, fallen trees, rocks and bushes. Related 2005 article in the Independent]

Stumps and Sand Playspace

I think my favorite playspace from the photos in the Freeplay exhibition is this one, from the playground for young children, Frysja, Kjelsås, Oslo.

Simply created, endless fun.

the Free Play Network

Reader Wendy, who gets to design playspaces in Australia, has sent me a lovely list of links, among them one to Britain's Free Play Network (free membership, open to all), whose site is full of information on new playgrounds, inspirational thoughts on how children play and a wonderful photo exhibit, where one is greeted with this manifesto:

"We believe that play environments should be beautiful, individually designed, should please and stimulate the senses, and be sources of delight and surprise. Nothing less will do."


[One of the sites featured is Copenhagen's Murergarden, before and after above, listed but unidentified in a previous post.]

Friday, March 28, 2008

Muller Orphanage Playgrounds, 1880ish

But will they have as much fun as these kids?

The Victorian playgrounds of the Muller orphanages, Bristol, England, where from 1836 until 1898 Rev. George Muller and his staff cared for 10,024 children, reaching 2,050 at one time, most orphaned by tuberculosis. On donations. Without asking for money. The playgrounds (there were indoor playrooms as well) were nicer than those of most Victorian schools, and quite unusual for poor children, who by the standards of the time only needed to work. Muller was critized for giving them advantages above their station in life.

Courtesy of the George Muller Foundation, the last vestige of the work, though the sturdy orphanage buildings still stand on the hills overlooking Bristol. Some of the playground walls survive.

Imagination Playground, David Rockwell, 2008

And in this corner...

from the park's website. Pro bono work by Rockwell, to be partially funded by Disney, as part of a program to introduce sand, water and other “loose parts” to 10 existing playgrounds across the city.

" Imagination Playground is a sculptured environment with features that children can manipulate, such as sand and water. In place of traditional fixed equipment are the raw materials of creativity and sensory exploration. Working with experts in the field, Rockwell Group and the city sought to enhance a child’s play experience by creating a flexible armature for many types of activities. Imagination Playground will be a magnet for families from all the boroughs and a new community hub for Lower Manhattan.
Loose Parts. Imagination Playground provides children with “loose parts,” a changing array of objects and toys that allows them to make each visit a new experience. Using play props – building blocks, along with buckets, shovels, and other objects— kids at this playground can build something, tear it down, and start all over again. Pulleys, wagons and wheelbarrows will enable kids to load and unload “cargo” and move “stuff” from one place to another, precisely the type of “work” children universally love to do.
Play Associates. Trained Play Associates will be present at Imagination Playground. They will let play evolve by maintaining a safe and secure environment and by renewing and varying the supply of loose parts. Their job is to ensure a diverse, creative play space. Play Associates, an important part of Imagination Playground, allow children to play in the city in ways that would not be possible without a staff to oversee and maintain the play resources"

Ummm...does the shape remind anyone else of a Paramecium?

Fight! Fight! Starchitects on the Playground

Re: announcements that David Rockwell and Frank Gehry will be designing playgrounds in New York City, at Burling Slip and Battery Park, respectively.

I await to be impressed.

by Alec Appelbaum, New York Times magazine, 06.2007

David Rockwell, Burling Slip: "The feel of a working slip!"
Frank Gehry, Battery Park: "Where land and sea, history and modernity combine in a refuge!"

Rockwell, Burling Slip: “Adventure playground” gear, such as sandbags, with on-site staff to help kids make their own fun.
Gehry, Battery Park: “Green” restroom with "vegetal walls."

Rockwell: Pittsburgh Steelers Stadium, Coke-bottle-shaped playground in left field of Atlanta Braves’ ballpark.
Gehry: Brooklyn Nets arena.

Rockwell: Designed FAO Schwartz store; overhauled libraries for the Robin Hood Foundation.
Gehry: Has appeared on The Simpsons.

Rockwell, Burling Slip: Fall 2008.
Gehry, Battery Park: Early 2009.

Rockwell, Burling Slip: $2 million for "play workers."
Gehry, Battery Park: $4 million this year, more TBD once Gehry has a design.

Playgoda, Greg Fleishman, 2008

Flat-pack snap-together 'playgoda' by Greg Fleishman

Thursday, March 27, 2008

'Sense' Light Swing, Alexander Lervik, 2005

Delightful. Lervik Design

Old Playgrounds on Flickr

Some of my favorites from the "Old Playground Furniture" group at Flickr.
I'm particularly partial to old playground rockets, which as a historian I find a fascinating reflection of Sputnik-era angst in the least likely of places.
Top to bottom, photos are by shershe, duncan, emphyria, vintage valentine, and

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Playground Play Barrel, 1924

Popular Mechanics, 1924. via MAKE.

Heemskerk playground by Carve, 2002

The work of Dutch firm Carve, found at greenline.

"The concept behind the structure is ingenious. It appears as though (roughly translated from Dutch) that the design came about as a result of requests for space saving and space defining playground equipment. The designers took a typical 80 sq. meter playground and sliced it into strips. The strips were then stacked and enclosed in a metal mesh wall. The strips are allowed to undulate because they are now free from the ground. The playground can now be used as a bounding space (wall / screen) because it is vertically stacked. Shown in the photo above the “walhalla” forms the edge of a soccer field. The goal is visible if you look carefully through the structure. "

Monday, March 24, 2008

De Paradijsvogel Elementary School by Kaptein Roodnat, 2006

"For elementary school De Paradijsvogel, Ypenburg, the duo of KapteinRoodnat (Marleen Kaptein and Stijn Roodnat) made an art work consisting of several hundred meters of bright green tubes, which occupy the schoolyard and the assembly hall. Inspired by Jacques Tati's 'Mon Oncle'."
via stroom.

Playground Musical Instruments by Jim Doble

Peals of laughter are what I most like to hear, but chimes, drums, or a stone xylophone would be nice too.
Made mostly from recycled materials by Jim Doble.

DIY swing from PVC pipe

from my files...sorry no source or instructions but it shouldn't be too difficult to reverse engineer.

DIY Playground from 4x4 posts

Five easy playground structures for under $100 total, built in an afternoon. More fun than a box of rocks.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

the playgrounds of Aldo van Eyck, Amsterdam, 1950s-1970s

Highly recommended: Aldo van Eyck: Playgrounds, Available, expensively at amazon and etc. But still highly recommended...changed my thinking.

more information at archined

Installations from Un Jeu d'Enfants, 2000

images via pan-dan

Commentary via The Independent:

"We wanted to consider the playground as an entity making up a landscape of activities and different sensations," says Bedin. They settled on a series of archetypal forms of play: basic game forms that were popular with three-to-six-year- olds and which the designers could use as a starting point. There were six in all: the slide; the climbing-frame; the maze; movement; hide-and-seek; and the sandpit.

"They form a litany of children's games that has probably been much the same for decades if not for centuries," explains Bedin. "The typologies that we developed are archetypes. The seesaw, the play mat, the inflatable, the slide - we tried to work with things that already exist. Piotr Sierakowski's pile of pink plastic branches, for instance, are what in France we have always called la cage a poules [climbing-frame]. "

Un Jeu d'Enfants is as much about exploring what is possible and laying down the gauntlet for other designers as it is about creating new games."

Natural Design Elements for Playgrounds

A truly inspirational photo-collection by Daryl of the use of rocks and trees and other natural elements...beautiful, natural, and cheap. Names of sites not listed, unfortunately.

A Mom's perspective

A mom's list of design requirements for a pre-schooler's playground:

  • Age-appropriate equipment, arranged so that children can play creatively without ever being completely out of sight of a parent.
  • Baby swings and a few "big kid" swings
  • A fence, which need not be high, but must enclose the entire perimeter, and must end either in a gate or a "baffle" - a series of turns that slows a child down. (OK, a playground expert recommended baffles to me, but I still say gate, preferably one that clangs loudly when you open it.)
  • A water fountain and a bathroom, or if a bathroom is too much of a crime magnet, a portable toilet well stocked with sanitizer and cleaned on a regular basis.
  • benches placed at regular intervals close in along the perimeter of the play area
  • Shade that covers at least one bench
  • a Picnic table or two, under a shelter would be even better
  • A small sand pit, for children who will inevitably end up digging in whatever dirt is available
  • A sidewalk running around the benches and play structures, in good repair and suitable for riding trikes.
  • A little grass around the edges, if there's space available.

from mothertalkers

Thoughts on playground design

Thoughts from a 2000 article in the Independent reviewing "Un Jeu d'Enfants", an exhibition of new children's play equipment executed in plastics.

"surprisingly little attention has been paid to the design of children's playspaces...playgrounds across Europe remain almost untouched by advances in material or design technology..The children's playground business is dominated by a few installation companies and myriad small-scale manufacturers, whose profitability depends on installing the same apparatus over and over again. They resist novelty and the consequent pressure to follow fashion."

Mobius playground equipment

A commercial design, but nice anyway. I've loved the mobius strip since 3rd grade math.
But what ninny at the trademark office let this company trademark the name Mobius?

Thomas Mayer Play Sculpture/Structure

From a Max Bill exhibition of the Thomas Mayer archive.

also via storkbitesman

Jardin d'email, Jean DuBuffet, 1974, Netherlands

painted concrete and epoxy resin

Photo of site by Ernst van Wijk, photo of scale model by rvanbuynder .