Sunday, September 20, 2009

Luckey Climbers

Tom Luckey and his son Spencer design biomorphic climbing systems that feature in many large-scale museum installations. Surrounded by nets, they allow for a much greater height than in most playground experiences. I have personally climbed one, and it was great! Luckey considers himself a sculptor..his climbers, he says, are like fountains, and the kids are the water.

Photos from the Luckey website and a Boston Globe slideshow about their work.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Riverside Park playground, Independence Kansas

One of those places is Riverside Park in Independence Kansas. They must take good care of things in Independence, because the Riverside park includes a range of playground equipment that appears to date from the 1920s through the 1950s, as well as modern additions.

Plus it has a corythosaurus statue from the 1964 New York World's Fair and the birthplace of Miss Able, the First Space Monkey.

What a place!

See more photos at Michael Bates via flickr

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

FUN-FUL playground equipment, 1925

On-line at the Smithsonian is the 1925 equipment catalog from the Fun-ful company, especially noted for their slides, some of which are still being used around the US today.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cowley Teenage Space, Brixton London, Snug and Outdoor, 2004

All the ideas for the Cowley Teenage space emerged during a consultation project conducted with the young people who lived on the Cowley housing estate, in which objects such as large ramps, platforms, steps, wooden crates, and a temporary shelter were used by the teens to create their own spaces.

What developed was a five-a-side football and basketball pitch, a ramped mound for bicyclies, and "a covered inactivity zone for spectators and a loose arrangement of large concrete blocks with both 'inside' and 'outside' spaces for occupying, playing on and flirting around. " New entrance ways and signage denote it as a special place, and automatic lighting enhances safety at night.

According to Snug and Outdoor, the new space has improved relationships within the community and complaints against local teens have been reduced.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bodyspace-motionthings by Robert Morris, 1971 and 2009, Tate Modern, London

American minimalist Robert Morris's Bodyspacemotionthings originally appeared at the Tate Modern in the 1970s, but was closed after only four days due to irrational exuberance by museum goers.

'Some of the 1,500 visitors became so intoxicated by [the] opportunities that they went around "jumping and screaming" to quote the exhibitions keeper, Mr Michael Compton. They went berserk on the giant see-saws, and they loosened the boards on other exhibits by trampling on them ... "It was just a case of exceptionally exuberant or energetic participation," Mr Compton said tolerantly'

Rebuilt to modern safety standards, it reappeared again in the Turbine Hall this past spring.

Robert Morris, now 78, said: 'It's an opportunity for people to involve themselves with the work, become aware of their own bodies, gravity, effort, fatigue, their bodies under different conditions'

Quote and photos, both modern and vintage, from the guardian.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Taka-Taku Land Preschool, Susan Hoffman Architects, Berlin, 2007

Inspired by one of my favorite childhood stories, Pippi Longstocking, this Berlin indoor-outdoor playspace is an interpretation of the hollow oak tree at Pippi's house, which produces lemonade.

"The lemonade breaches the rough “bark” of the walls to flow outside. In the bark of the oak tree the children can climb, hide and nap. The playable space within the facade is well-cushioned and offers protection from all weather conditions. The luminous textile shines colourfully both on the outside and the inside. Within this space the children can lose themselves in play and fun within the lemonade world."

I like the way the structure is climbing frame/ladder/slide/pillow all at once, and the feel of climbing out of a window (usually a forbidden experience for a child) and into the playspace must be irresistible.

There are seven stages to the lemonade tree:
"1 Glittering Lemonade in the Sun Light: to catch the sunlight and welcome friends. 2 Waiting for the Parents: to watch for the arrival of the parents, while interacting with the children inside in a lemonade glow. 3 Lemonade Gallery: to discover yourself and to show Mum and Dad your pictures in a lemonade illumination. 4 Lemonade Island: to have fun and delve and hide yourself in the lemonade. 5 The Bark Breaks Open: to play and have fun outside on rainy days 6 Delving into the Lemonade: to feel the world turn into lemonade while gliding around or relaxing. 7 Dreaming under the Apple Tree: to dream and share secrets."

found via urbanpreschool; more photos (and other interesting work) at the Susan Hoffman Architects website.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Bug Hotel, Costessey School, Norwich

Costessy School's Bug Hotel uses "silver birch logs, a bark-covered flower pot to act as a small mammal home, sections of plastic down-pipe filled with cut canes as bee homes, and a number of various-sized logs and flints all built on a base-board with willow framework, up which ivies could be grown to back the structure."

Whether or not you go so far as to install a bug hotel, if natural elements like stumps, rocks, and plantings are used on the playground, you'll have insects aplenty for projects and study.
And if you have a sea of artificial surfacing planted with metal poles and plastic platforms, well, you won't.

Along those lines, an excellent item to add to 'loose' playground equipment is some large plastic magnifying glasses, great for examining bugs as well as dropped bird feathers, rocks, and dirty fingers. Just don't show them how to start a fire!

But I'd also like to see some fixed magnifying lenses installed on playgrounds...they could be installed away from direct sunlight to avoid a fire hazard and kids could take their finds over to the lens to magnify them. It could be as simple as simple as embedding the lenses into holes drillled in a fence rail.

The pleasure of looking at things through microscopes and magnifying glasses played a large role in my decision to be a scientist when I 'grew up'; I'd like to see more children use them to engage with the wonders of the world around them.