Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Half A Mil!

So I had planned to watch the blog stats tick over to half a million views and I notice this morning that I've already missed it by 6,000...if you were that half-millionth viewer, or indeed any one of the first 500,000, thank you!  I never imagined that playscapes would matter to so many people.  Much, much more to come in the next half a mil!

Best playground wishes,

Saturday, September 25, 2010

More rubrics...Design for Play!

Another helpful playground rubric is the set of ten design principals offered by the organization Play England in their publication "Design for Play: A guide to creating successful play spaces", by Aileen Shackell, Nicola Butler, Phil Doyle, and David Ball.

Successful Play Spaces:

1. are 'bespoke'

2. are well-located

3. make use of natural elements

4. provide a wide range of play opportunities

5. are accessible to both disabled and non-disabled children

6. meet community needs

7. allow children of different ages to play together

8. build in opportunities to experience risk and challenge

9. are sustainable and appropriately maintained

10. allow for change and evolution

The Design for Play document illustrates each design principle with further explanation and illustrative photos...many of natural playgrounds recently constructed in the UK, as excerpted here.  A must read!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Patterns of Play - a playground rubric?

The National Institute for Play, a U.S. based non-profit "committed to bringing the unrealized knowledge, practices and benefits of play into public life", provides a useful summary for playground types:  seven elemental behavior forms that it terms "patterns of play".

Attunement play
Body Play & Movement
Object Play
Social Play
Imaginative and pretend play
Storytelling-Narrative play
Transformative-Integrative and Creative play

All of the patterns have short summaries and a list of resources for further reading.

Since beginning this blog I've often puzzled over how to evaluate a playground;  not strictly as 'good' or 'bad', but as effective.  The play is the thing, and the playscape just an enabler...does it provide the space in which all of these play patterns can occur?  Does it facilitate not just presence, but engagement in these forms?  I like the patterns as at least the beginning of some sort of rubric, not because I think the intangible experience of a playground can be captured in a set of numbers but because it's always good to have a way of organizing ones thoughts...this seems a useful guide for discussions about the design of new playgrounds, and new ways of utilizing existing ones.

Natural settings, of course, provide space for all sorts of play without half trying and understanding how they do so is worthy of serious study by those who presume to improve...

I'll be thinking more about this, and hope you will too.

[The lyrical at-play images accompanying this post are by gardener and play observer Paolo Tasini....apologies for taking so long to feature them, Paolo!]

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nils Norman, Public Workplace Playground Structure, Graz Austria, 2009

Nils also constructed a temporary playground structure for the Volksgarten in Graz in 2009.

"...Norman has developed an installation of recyclable material that is, or may be, a workplace, playground facility, meeting place and shelter, that is covered with plants, and thus targets various age groups and interests. The facility provides even a DIY-eco-‘rocket oven’ that uses very little fuel and creates great heat to cook on.."

I'm excited about this playscape because of how Nils organized its space...those 'boxes' that are both elevated (we love being off the ground!) and short-ceilinged (we love having our head close to the roof!).  As soon as I saw this I remembered being in similar found spaces as a child, but I rarely see them on the playground.  The ramp and tunnels and the fact that the structure itself forms a 'path' is bonus.

But I'm not at all sure about the rocket oven.

[quote and photos from the steirischer herbst festival website.]

Nils Norman, Factory Floor, 2005

A 20 meter long mural executed for a 2005 exhibition entitled "Invisible Insurrection" in Bilbao...anyone have a better photo? [found at archinect]

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Playable10: International Playground Design Competition

If you have better ideas for the playground of the future than those below, be sure to enter Playable10.

"Playable10:International Design Competition invites designers of all types from around the world to design playground structures and spaces that will give a sense of place, wonder and fun so strong that they will entice children, teens and adults outdoors to play. Winners will be selected by a diverse jury" (of which yours truly is one member!)

The DEADLINE for registration is October 1, and October 15 is the submission deadline for the following prizes in three categories:

a.) Playable Art: One (1) winning playspace will be built in Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta in 2011

b.) Playable Site: One (1) winning conceptual master plan for play will be presented to the Atlanta Beltline, James Corner Field Operations, and Perkins + Will for their review as they develop the Beltline master plan. The winner has the potential to be a great influence on the Atlanta Beltline

c.) Playable DIY: All semi-finalist designs will be reproduced in a free downloadable DIY instruction manual for anyone to use. This manual will be promoted internationally. At least one (1) winning DIY project will be built and the process captured in a documentary/pilot

I'm really excited about what will be submitted, and hoping for some truly unique ideas...maybe I'll see yours?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Playgrounds in 2024?

I'm late getting to this one, but WIRED magazine featured "The Future of Playgrounds" as a speculative scenario in its FOUND series last month.  The winning design team members were Anonymous, Ryan Flake, jgombarcik, and Scott. Aaron Rowe was the writer, Daniel Salo the photographer and Joel McKendry designed the blueprint.   They seem to see the future as a magnified version of today:  safety signage has morphed into a full legal disclamer, the playground is thoroughly 'branded', including at the required sterilization dip tank and the increasing sedentary grown-ups have consigned their strollers to an autonomous track.  A grim vision (though tongue-in-cheek, I know).  What's yours?  Where will playgrounds be in 2024?