Sunday, November 16, 2008

Your thoughts on Natural Playgrounds?

I wanted to highlight a comment I got recently from reader Anita Van Asperdt:

I am a landscape architect. In my profession we are almost forced to design with standard out-of-the-box playground equipment because these structures are designed with all the safety codes and regulations in mind. Therfore, park departments expect us to use these plastic structures. I can hardly call this "design" it is just picking out a nice product from a cataloge. I finally decided to educate myself about all those safety regulations and start designing Natural Playgrounds so I can be creative and the kids don't have to play in a plastic environment. I am not the only one delving into Natural Playground design there are several other companies. . My company is called LandCurrent other companies that offer creative playgrounds are: the Natural Playground company and Leathers. If you know of any others please post it here, because we need as many resources as possible to get away from plastic playgrounds. I am convinced that natural playgrounds are the new revolution in playground design, they are safer, cheaper, healthier for our kids and above all more fun!

I've had "Natural Playgrounds" (the company, not the idea) on my list to blog about for some time. In answer to Anita's plea I'll try to feature many of the natural playground resources I'm aware of over the next couple of weeks.

But I know I have lots of landscape architect readers (which, BTW I am not, being, rather, an odd combination of scientist and garden historian) and I'd like to hear what you think about the natural playground design movement. It seems that the buzz isn't reaching the spite of articles and news coverage about new types of playgrounds, most people seem to go for the easiest option, which is ordering a plastic playground from a catalogue.

That said, I think of this blog as an 'idea board' for all kinds of playground thoughts, both natural and otherwise, with design ideas that I find interesting or unique or which I think could be adapted in a variety of ways and into different settings. It's an appreciation, a celebration, of the playground art, in a way. So there will always be both 'natural' and 'artificial' here, but very little catalogue.

Your thoughts?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rebar trees for the playground

Quicker than long-rooted ficus might be trees of welded rebar...these are commonly seen in California (those pictured are at the Getty) most often as supports for bougainvillea, but I'd like to see them on a playground.

They could drip with morning glory or sweet potato vines most of the year and with snow and icicles the rest.

[photo from my files, so source uncertain; if it's yours please let me know]
Update: photo found- via lost in the landscape

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Plantware's 'Playgrounds of the Future'?

Plantware’s vision is to turn living trees into a new building material.

"By controlling the shape in which trees grow, Plantware creates products that are made of living trees."

"Plantware has developed, and patented, a set of horticultural techniques to grow soft, flexible and shapeless (un-lignified ) trees. These trees are shaped by placing them on temporary templates (jigs) and induced to harden and thicken – whilst retaining the shape of the template on which they were placed. In effect, this allows the “casting” of living material into shapes that were formally impossible to achieve."

Above, their proposal for the "Kinderforest" playground of the future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Home Playground Ideas, Inside and Out

Inspirational ideas for home playscapes...
I've had both of these photos in my file for some time, so have lost the original sources. (I think the top one is from the New York Times). Let me know if you have their attributions.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Rag, Tag and Bobtail at play, 1899

via the inimitable bibliodyssey, the play adventures of Rag, Tag, and Bobtail, 1899 by Edith Farmiloe.
The text is interesting; underneath the idealized imagery is a grim acknowledgement of the lack of play opportunities (and even grass!) for poor children in fin-de-siecle London.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Enormous, Irresistible Playground slide somewhere in Japan

Ahh, the group slide! When I was in elementary school we just tried to pile on the slide together. Much better to have a slide designed for groups!
It occurs to me, further, that there are precious few ways on a playground for adults and kids to play together. This is a good answer to that dilemna.

Playground globe, Berlin

"...looking-glass half-globe which was found on a playground in Berlin Neukölln. there is nothing to it but its size and surface, it almost looks like a minimal art sculpture and would be out of place anywhere else, but the kids loved it: climbing up, sliding down, seeing themselves in the concave surface etc."

Petrin Park, Prague

No info on designer or date...