Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kiwanis Park, Paul Horne, Pittsboro, North Carolina, 2009

Paul Horne of the Pittsboro. NC Parks Department involved an impressive list of community members in the renovation of their Kiwanis park, and salvaged slabs of a huge felled oak to serve as imaginative lily pads in a garden 'pond'. Other wood pieces were recyled as a car and a curved seating bench that is intentionally integrated into the playspace, to pull in the grown-ups, rather than leaving them hovering 'round the edges as most playgrounds do. They've recently hosted a sculpture exhibit, featuring the works of local artists, at the playground.

"Renovations include doubling the play space, the addition of colorful shade cloths, 10 new trees plus a variety of shrubs and perennial flowers. Natural play features have been added including two sandboxes, a boulder climbing area, and a unique carved wooden car, along with benches, a hop-scotch area and an incredible “Clyde critter.”
I have been hearing passionately positive feedback from parents, and seeing enthusiastic kids every time I’m out there. My day was made Thursday when a woman confided that she “wished they had something like this in Chapel Hill.” I’ve also heard it described as a “wonderland.” Word must be getting around because I’ve seen higher attendance at the park than ever before. "

I think it's important to note that this project was the renovation of an existing site that still includes traditional, poles-and-platform's an excellent model for the addition of natural play spaces to existing playgrounds. Well-done, Pittsboro!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Artist's Playground, Sudely Castle, 2008

The theme of last's years outdoor sculpture exhibition at Sudely Castle in the U.K. was play.

Some of the installations are of no relevance (Dripping plastic skeleton figure in a tree? Not. Playful.) but others have some new ideas...

Several of the pieces focused on reflectance, a material attribute I wish I saw more in playspaces. Jeppe Hein's 'Mirror Labyrinth' would definitely be fun on a playground, as would Arik Levy's 'Moon Tables', though finger smudges would have to be tolerated.

Henry Krokatsis reproduced the pulpit from the chapel on the Castle's grounds as a treehouse. Since pulpits are a place for 'vocalizing' it made me think of the delight of having a shouting spot (preferably elevated, like this one) on the playground.

James Hopkins made a bottle containing lenses and mirrors to give a kaleidoscopic view of the surroundings (how much do I want to see lenses used on the playground? Alot.)

and Carston Holler (he of the gigantic slides at the Tate Modern) contributed a flying machine.

Oh, and Zaha Hadid made a slide, but it looked just like her shoes/sofas/faucets/buildings and wasn't very interesting.
[Thanks, Fawn!]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"My swings have no chains because chains get stolen in Belarus."

In discussions about the niceties of playground design, I sometimes forget about the places where there isn't any playscape at all. But I've been reminded by Tom McEnaney of International Orphanage Development Programme, who has installed 60 playgrounds for orphanages in Belarus. His playground components are manufactured by a company that used to make tanks for the Russian military (how's that for swords into plowshares...tanks into swings!) so they're virtually indestructible, and use struts instead of chains on the swings. Fortunately, they seem to still allow teeter-totters and merry-go-rounds in Belarus!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Learning Community Playground, Rhode Island, Laurencia Strauss, 2008

I'm back...thanks for your patience. I'll ease into things by posting some of the playgrounds sent in by my readers...I'm always glad for recommendations!

At The Learning Community, a charter school in Central Falls, R.I., students spent recess on an old parking lot until a fourth grader wrote to Lowe's asking for help. They sent $110,000.

The new playground was designed by Laurencia Strauss, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate, as "part playground, part park, part sculpture" to provide space for both active play and quiet reflection. Creative use of inexpensive elements like round pre-cast stepping stones and galvanized water troughs, good use of plants...and the sandpit is a pool!
Lots more photos, including of construction (I love construction photos!) at the school's Flickr stream.

(Thanks Maggie L.!)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Apologies for being away...desperately trying to finish a manuscript on Raman spectroscopy of nanostructures at the moment. Back soon!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Coney Island Playground Slide 1905

The 'Helter Skelter'. From my files, original source unknown, enlighten me if you know it!