Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Slide at Teardrop Park, Battery Park City, NYC

[image via dumbonyc]

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Playground structure for disabled children, Cecile Elstein, 1977

I love the way they can wheel their chairs under this DIY-able structure. Interesting shadow patterns, too. (via the artist's site).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Pod, Kazuya Morita, 2006

Along the same cocooning lines is kazuya morita's award-winning pod.


PLAY+SOFT specialize in soft furnishings for creative play in interior settings, but I think many of their ideas for spaces such as cocoons, islands, and burrows would be well-adapted in the landscape.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Green Park Sandpit, London

The Marquand Park sandpit reminds me of this one, at Green Park in London.

Marquand Park Sandpit, Princeton New Jersey

An enviable sandpit, causing this playground to be known locally as the 'sandbox park'

House for Sale, Studio Papas, 2007

Near as I can tell from their site, which is under construction, this set of modular play 'blocks' by Dutch design firm Studio Papas is designed for indoor use only. A change of materials might allow for outdoor play...

via minordetails: "Children between the age of 3 and 12 years old are able to design and build new forms. Older children can make those forms “high in the sky” and younger children can make new forms at floor level. Children can design for example; a spaceship, a race-car, 4 seats with table, a king-figure, a train and other. House for sale is made of foam and finished with a soft-touch coating."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hull House Playground Opens in Jolly Romp, 1895

The (arrogant) assertion by Adrian Benepe, NYC parks commissioner and narrator of the NYT slideshow referenced below, that New York City is the 'birthplace of the playground'--based upon the opening of Seward Park in 1903--is plainly incorrect.

I'm not an expert in playground history, but I do know that Jane Addams established the Hull House playground in Chicago in 1895, opening it to a 'wild scene of delight' in which boys tunneled under the fences to get to be the first on the swings, as the original piece from this newspaper attests. [easier to read at its transcription here]

This slide show depicts the "evolution of recreational space in and around Hull-House, from alleys and courtyards to playgrounds that were eventually taken over by the municipality" in 1906, and is the source of the 1901 photo above. Hull House beats not-the-center-of-the-universe-NYC by a healthy eight years.

A few playground thoughts...

From the NYT piece below there are links to several related Times articles (Can Johnny come out and (be taught to) Play? and New York tries to think outside the Sandbox) . I'd like to record a few of the more interesting quotes here...

“Very little time is spent by kids in playgrounds if they have a choice,” said Roger Hart, who has been consulting with the Rockwell Group and the city in developing the playground. He is also a director of the Children’s Environments Research Group at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “They limit the repertoire of play to children’s physical activity,” instead of encouraging the kind of social, sensory, interactive and individual fantasy play that children need, Mr. Hart said."

"Cultural critics have warned of the dangers of replacing spontaneous play with organized activities since the 1930s, when the historian Johan Huizinga published his classic, “Homo Ludens,” about the importance of spontaneous and unstructured play to the health of societies. "

100 year history of NYC playgrounds

Fascinating audio/slideshow from the NYT of New York's playground history.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Alligator and Catfish, Joy Wulke, 1984

Sculptor Joy Wulke made these for climbing, playing, and seating at the 1984 Louisiana World Fair. They are formed from the same levee bags that hold back the Mississippi River from New Orleans, which were filled with concrete and covered with STO plastic stucco to make the play sculptures. Interesting use of an unusual material.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Carsten Holler, Test Site 2006

More slides as experiential sculpture, from last year's installation at the Tate Modern. Holler maintains that slides can help combat stress and depression. He calls the experience 'voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind'. And it is indeed impossible not to giggle riding this slide (which I did, three times).

Isamu Noguchi, Slide Mantras, 1988-90

There is so much to say about Isamu Noguchi's playground work that I've been putting off even beginning. But here are two of his 'slide mantras', embodying his belief that play could lead to a new appreciation of sculpture. Noguchi said that the completion of the sculpture would be when children polished it with their bottoms as they slid down.

The black slide is in Oo-Dori Park, Sapporo, Japan. Black was selected so that it would be visible even in the snow. Noguchi selected the site himself. [image via daddytypes]

The white one is at Bayfront Park in Miami, Florida, Very poorly sited. It's hard to put children off a slide, but this forbidding setting might do it. I can't find any history on this install, but I think we can safely assume that Noguchi didn't select this site. [image via bayfrontpark]

There will be much more about Noguchi in posts to come.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Open Playgrounds in San Francisco

San Francisco has begun to leave some schoolyards unlocked during weekends, with a goal of having at least one playground in each of their districts open for public use. School districts have signed agreements in which the city takes on liability and accepts responsibility for any damages after hours.

This seems like a head-smacking, why-didn't-we-think-of-this-before idea. Spaces built with public funds should, after all, be available for public use as much as possible.

Most of the school playgrounds aren't that interesting, leaning heavily on mass-produced play units, but I like this stepped amphitheatre at Dianne Feinstein Elementary. The play appeal of long shallow steps is underestimated.

Union Park, Dubuque c. 1900

Slides, swings and merry-go-rounds (c. 1900 based on the clothes) at Union Park in Dubuque, Iowa. Too bad we've lost the merry-go-rounds to litigation. Do any of you readers have statistical data on their actual danger, or is it just a perceived risk? I'd be interested to know.

Just a great photo

Makes me smile.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Carr Everbach's Favorite Playgrounds

This exceptionally helpful little site is almost a playground journal, a pocketbook of notes kept by Carr Everbach, co-chair of the playground committee for the Main Line Unitarian Church in 2002. The photos of the favorite playgrounds are nice, but better are the thoughts he records as he critiques them and the notes of the playground committe, which are a rare insight into the thoughts of a lay/amateur/non-designery group as they seek to make a better playground for their church. The dispute about different playground elements (some like rocks, some don't; some think swings are a hazard, some love them) recorded from a church meeting is instructive as well. The effort and research they put into their quest are impressive, and I only wish there were photos of their final result!

Photos above are of a playground in Concord Township, PA, built by Robert Leathers and Associates in 1992. It has some excellent DIY ideas, including embedded tractor tires, a climbing tower made by covering chains with auto radiator hose, and a bouncy bridge made from a sheet of super-tough neoprene.

DIY Playground Fence Ideas

Perhaps some of these are more doable, and affordable.

Fence made from street signs by Leger Wanaselja Architecture, Berkeley, CA.

Colored pencil fence via home rejuvenation. This could be made by painting your basic stockade fencing...

Altered-state chainlink: lace fence by demakersvan via coolboom

Playground Fence, Tejo Remy, 2007

Ingenious. Love it. Can't afford it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Reader Help needed...

Martin Rayala, Ph.D. said...
"I'm guest editing an issue of SchoolArts magazine for Davis Publishing on design education and have received an article about a class project based on the idea of playground design. I'd love to see more projects in which students actually learn how to design play spaces. Can you help me out?"

I've seen student-designed playgrounds, but none in which the goal was to teach design, rather than just to generate ideas. Get in touch with Martin if you can help.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

the PlayPump, Africa

via pruned, the PlayPump.

Though not motivated by the same necessity, in the Western world this would be an interesting way to expose children to the principles of hydraulics and mechanics...especially if the water-raising mechanism were visible.

Playground Workout Machines, Hong Kong

via swissmiss, workout machines in a Hong Kong park. Hopefully sited so parents can watch the kids while working out themselves instead of just sitting on a bench. Actually, I think this installation is part of the emerging trend of playgrounds to address the fitness needs of aging adults.
No specific location info, unfortunately...let me know if you can pinpoint where this is.