Monday, October 27, 2008

Playscape, London, Groundwork, 2007

In London at the moment, so posting some UK-based projects...

This playscape, by Groundwork West London, won both RHS Gold and the BBC Peoples Choice awards at the 2007 Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

"The joy of designing landscapes, particularly public ones," principal Adam White says, "is you never know who the end user might be – children, teenagers, families, pensioners, office workers, joggers and dog walkers. "

"Groundwork playscape sits somewhere between traditional playground design and the play value of climbing in fallen trees.”
The space includes a sculpted landform with tunnels, a climbing structure with poles and nets, an Archimedes screw for water play, scattered climbing boulders, and 'play' plantings: chestnut trees for conkers, daisy lawns for making daisy chains, dandelions for blowing wishes into the wind, and willow for weaving and mazes.
"Playscape" has since been reinstalled in the London borough of Ealing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Spiral Garden, Palo Alto CA, Curtis Tom, 2006

Many thanks to reader Curtis Tom for sending photos of his admirable playground project:

"I am a part-time zookeeper at the Palo Alto Jr. Museum and Zoo (California) and a part-time landscaper. I designed and installed this play area over two years ago in a formerly empty area in front of the museum. I had a small budget to work with and so I decided to make a stump garden with stumps I got for free from the local dump. I used stumps from eucalyptus, redwood, magnolia, oak and pine trees. Their different colors and bark add an interesting blend. The plants in the garden include grasses, fennel, lemon marigolds, salvias, mint and succulents. I also included a large piece of petrified wood and a rock with fossil shells in the design that were currently laying at the site.

As a landscaper this has easily been my most personally rewarding installation I have done because I get to watch the enjoyment the kids get from playing in the spiral garden. Towards the end of the spiral I have raised the elevation so the kids can feel they are climbing to the top of the "Mountain". This garden has also sparked other people to create similar stump gardens in their own yards. "

High play value--low, low cost.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Discovery Frontier playground, Grove Park Ohio, MSI Design

"Discovery Frontier is not just a visually appealing place for children to play; it is a place for them to learn about the solar system and the city they call home. Each section of the park features a different planet and a different play experience. Walkways following imaginary orbit paths connect the planets. Plaque markers with information about the planets dot the 230-foot radius of the playground. There are spaces for classes to take part in group lessons focused on orbit and motion. Walls representing sunbeams have imbedded marbles, minerals and fossils in exposed veins. A 634-foot timeline (1,251 linear feet) weaves through the playground along the ground. Twenty-seven engravings along the timeline notes significant dates in the history of discovery and what was going on in Grove City at that time. The concrete walkway is stamped with two different textures and five different color mixtures. Native leaf and animal prints surround the Grove City historical dates and black marbles surround the dates in discovery. "

"The central feature of the playground is a 50-foot diameter resin and powder-coated sun sculpture. Tork Inc., an Ohio-based art design company specializing in sculpture and metal work, provided five, 14-foot tall sun structures made from steel, aluminum and resin to provide shelter and relief from the heat of the real sun. "

"The Venus Music Garden is made up of large, brightly colored bells, chimes and drums for children to play. The instruments were created by a group of designers from Colorado called Free Notes, which custom designs and builds indoor and outdoor instruments. "

"A custom designed climbing wall made of red concrete and stones makes up the planet Mars. The 4-foot tall wall grows to 7 feet tall at the highest point and wraps around an interior route, allowing every child access to the top. The accessible walkway circling the inside of the wall is elevated 3 feet and has viewing holes or “craters” for children to peer out of."

"The Earth’s moon is a 36 foot diameter rubberized dome, with crater tunnels giving children access to an under cover room that is 11 feet in diameter and 4 feet high (the tunnels slope downward so that the room is the same height as the total structure). An alien space ship handrail made of steel was fabricated by a local company, Pinnacle Metal Products, and sits atop the moon along with two ADA accessible viewing telescopes attached to the moon inside of the railing, providing children and parents views of the rolling green hills surrounding the park. "

"A favorite feature among the children who come to play at the park is the Mercury sand. Instead of the standard white sand commonly found in parks and playgrounds, Kissling decided at the last minute (the day before the opening of the playground on July 14, 2005.) to use vibrant, purple sand he had spotted at a local stone company. Parents were reassured at the opening of the playground that their children would not be permanently stained purple. The color is baked into the sand and although the sand may stick to the skin in humid weather, the color will not run or stain. "
MSI principals did research to "observe the physical therapy equipment used in treating autistic children. MSI collaborated with Architectural Concrete Systems, Inc. to design and fabricate custom play pieces that mimic the activities used by therapists...The designers wanted to create a place where children of varying abilities could play together. They used a lot of color to appeal to the deaf; a music garden and plaques written in brail with raised molds of the planets indicating their size in relation to one another for the blind; rocking equipment, angled banks to lay on, as well as small, private spaces for autistic children.
Rather than placing traditional park benches through the playground, designers incorporated seating into the landscape by using seating walls, which were painted to look like the surface of planets and the Saturn seawall, which is painted with a multicolored swirl finish.
...designers have plans to construct a Jupiter splash pad featuring water rings which will create a tunnel of water (large enough for a wheelchair to go under), ground geysers, and spray jets. A Pluto space shelter overhead will be constructed for picnics and parties as well as a healing garden and shelter.
Cost: an only-with-tax-dollars 1.1 million.
[All text from an article at LandscapeOnline.]
[website for MSI Design]

Monday, October 13, 2008

Webster School, Chicago, 1902

More playground memories this week from the American Memory project of the Library of Congress...

I think maybe this is why they don't allow see-saws on the playground anymore. Looks like fun, though.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Carlton Playground, Melbourne, Mary Jeavons and Taylor Cullity Lethlean, 2000

From the Taylor Cullity Lethlean website:

"On one level the design is loosely based on a traditional labyrinth or maze. A series of linear pre-cast concrete walled forms, square in plan are dissected with paths, and punctured holes, providing a variety of running, hiding and exploratory experiences.

"The 'maze' is transected by a swathe - a curved pathway of granitic gravel with planting, musical marimba's and submerged boulders. Wheelchair access is possible along the swathe, transecting pathway and into the play structures."
The play space is located to be viewed from two perspectives, from the adjacent street and from within the Carlton Gardens.

Viewed from the east, from within the Carlton Gardens, the playspace is visually integrated into the landscape. To ensure the maze nestles comfortably, the walls are profiled to follow the topography of the site. One serpentine shape is sequentially repeated, each time its position is slightly shifted, lowered and raised. The resulting linear voids between the walls appear is if excavated from the landscape.

This purposefully contrasts with its impression from the adjacent street or The Museum where the playspace undertakes a richly coloured and visually dynamic experience.

Concentrated play structures designed to appear as if little seeds have sown from the adjacent Museum Building are located within the maze. They are simple square forms comprised of a series of decks in which a multitude of attachments hang-off the sides providing sliding, climbing, hanging, tunnelling, and balancing activities.

Winner of the Austrialian Institute for Landscape Architecture Open Space award in 2002.

Cost: $400,000

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Booring Playgrounds

"Boring was how the majority of children described their local parks and playgrounds in a 2002 national survey (UK) by the Children's Society and the Children's Play Council. Further more, 45% said that they were not allowed to play with water, 36% not allowed to climb trees, 27% not allowed to play on climbing equipment and 23 % not allowed to ride bikes or use skateboards. "

from a 2002 article by Ken Worpole in the Guardian

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Grassy slide at the San Francisco School, Miller Company, 2003

Jeff Miller and company used the broken concrete from renovation at the San Francisco School to terrace a hillside, and set this slide into it. I love that the kids can reach out and touch the grasses while they slide.

I couldn't find more photos, but according to an article at edutopia the playground also includes climbing trees adorned with blue stripes that mean "Go no higher." and a water pump in a pile of dirt for mud play. Rubber boots are provided. Any school that has a stock of wellies for its students gets my vote...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Weezie's Children's Garden, Julie Moir Messervy, 2003

Though the children's space at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society's Elm Bank Center is a garden, it also has elements of a playground. And it was named ‘Favorite Outdoor Playspace’ by The Boston Parents' Paper in 2005.

I love the nests.

Photos graciously provided by the site's designer: Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio. Their inspiration for the composition was the growth of an unfurling fern frond.

The fishpond and twig tower photos are by Trish Wesley Umbrell.