The nursery slide of the young Tsar Alexei, at Alexander Palace in Tsarkoye Selo, a summer residence of the Romanovs and the family's last real shelter from the revolutionary storms that would consume them.
The Bolsheviks renamed the city Detskoye Selo (Children's Village) in 1918, but I don't think they made any new playgrounds for the children they presumed to honor.
Winter is closing in on the midwest...only the third official 'blizzard' warning in state history and stern warnings against travel on the news. Fortunately, I am already home for Christmas...and I hope you are, too. Have a merry one!
UPDATE: I wrote to Mr. Hein, asking him about the future of the Loop Bench. It has been purchased for a public sculpture park in Germany (Camp Reinsehlen / Lüneburger Heide). Not a playground specifically, but at least acessible!
WOS 8 is a utility building. Isolated and unstaffed, such installations are often the target of vandalism. So NL architects decided to wrap the entire building in a durable polyurethane skin and make the facade a playground, "a public square wrapped around a box."
"WOS 8 aims to become part of the youth culture that usually is the biggest threat for this kind of building....Since, believe it or not, climbing is becoming a national sport in the Netherlands, a series of climbing grips are inserted under the polyurethane skin. Applied in Braille, they spell a text: the Blind Facade. A so-called Doorscope (a large 'peephole' lens) is placed the wrong way around in the main door. Normally used to see who's delivering pizza, now revealing the entire interior on a little screen...standard issue, but still amazingly beautiful road reflectors are plugged into the east facade and are sprayed over. Some pop through the skin and spell the name of the building: WOS 8."
Plus, the large through-holes of the WOS 8 design act as spouts and cisterns for water play in the wet climate, and create nesting boxes for birds and cavities for bats. Wow. Such thought devoted to a usually forgotten and ugly part of the built landscape, and to productive engagement with the youth who might otherwise deface it. And it uses a lens, which always makes me happy!
Another nice book for Christmas giving--play related though not specifically playground related--is Let's Play, a historic book being published by the Book Club of California, nearly 100 years after its initial authorship. Originally assembled in 1929 by Pasadena artists, teachers, and sisters Frances, May, and Edna Gearhart, the book of their original linoleum cuts and descriptive verses was never produced, until now, in a limited edition of 1000 copies. Available for purchase at the Book Club of California.
The books recommended in the sidebar (including the one on Aldo Van Eyck, which was a key inspiration for this blog) are all volumes I've read and loved and found to be helpful in thinking about playgrounds. I'd recommend more if I had more leisure reading time...perhaps in the New Year! But vintage playground books are the best--here are some of my favorites:
The 1970s were something of a high-water mark in playground innovation...lots of new ideas were percolating and actually getting built in a time before threat-of-lawsuits became a primary design consideration. Books from the era are full of interesting playground contraptions being built by men with mustaches and tested by kids with puffy hair and polyester trousers.
If you have a favorite playground book (vintage or otherwise), please add to the list!
The BPS 90 courtyard is featured in the inaugural newsletter of the American Society for Landscape Architecture's recently established "Professional Practice Network devoted to Children’s Outdoor Environments" (such an unwieldy title, but join anyway if you're an ASLA member!).
It features a curriculum-based approach, which should warm the hearts of administrators everywhere, with gathering spaces specifically designed for science, math, music, art, and geography/geology, all connected within a varying topography by a circuit walk.
A 6 inch deep, 8 inch wide water channel flows down a gentle slope through the landscape, traversed by bridges where it intersects the circuit walk and providing watery opportunities for playing Pooh sticks, damming the stream, racing rubber ducks.
Natural elements of logs, mounds and boulders are interspersed with concrete areas that allow for hard surface activities like jumping rope, riding tricycles and bouncing balls. I especially like the way the plant materials are keyed to the curriculum elements: the "music" area is planted with varieties that make sound in the wind, attract singing insects and birds or which can be used to make instruments, and the "art" space has plants whose petals or berries can be used to make dyes or inks.
The "math" classroom uses unit-cell pavings to show ratios and proportions and includes raised planters for counting seeds and measuring growth, and the "science" area has large mounds of earth that can be used for velocity measurements, and a wider water channel for experimentation.