Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vintage Chicago Playground Slide, Vivian Maier

From the recently discovered photograph archives of Vivian Maier, a street photographer c. 1950-1990.

See more at John Malloof's blog, and read more at the Kickstarter project to document Vivian Maier's life.

Longtime readers will recognize this as one of the most delightful of the Fun-ful slides.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mora Park Playground and Green Battle, Urbanarbolismo, Castell de Guadalest, Spain, 2010

First, Spanish firm Urbanarbolismo generated a great inexpensive design for an unusual site with a serious problem of run-off from the surrounding mountains.  To stay within a small budget of 14500 euro, they reused all existing street furniture, streetlights, benches, swings and slides, coordinating them with eye-popping orange paint that is echoed in the splashes of new safety surfacing.  To deal with the water, all of the park slopes converge towards the central zone, where soil awaited planting. And then how to plant the space? 

Wanting to encourage community involvement, Urbanarbolismo staged a "Green Battle" in which about 200 people threw seed-containing mud balls at each other until the battlefield/site (and themselves) were completely covered.  Seeds included a grass to green the space quickly and native species such as thyme and heather to add permanent color and aroma to the playscape.  

Playful installation...playful site!  I'm so going to make my youth group do this next time something needs planting.  Just add water.


Urbanarbolismo also has an award-winning strategy for using the 'la batalla verde' events to green-up public spaces, and you can send them a photo of your own tree and they will design a dream treehouse for it!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Playgrounds on Google NGram

So of course I had to do some Ngramming of playground terms as soon as I heard about the new Google feature, which tracks mentions of words in their corpus of scanned media:

The word 'playground' really doesn't exist before 1800, and even then it is frequently used without reference to children (i.e. the Playground of Algiers).  Note that 'playground' spikes in the early twentieth century, when the growth of urban areas generated a great deal of philanthropic activity around provisions for the needy in general and children in particular.  There's a small spike during the mustachioed seventies, and I am pleased to see that interest has been rising since the mid-nineties!

'Playscape' doesn't enter the language at all until 1960, spikes in the 1980s as a new way of phrasing playgrounds, and seems to still be rising, though with a bit of a hitch.  The Ngrams are based on google's 2009 holdings.

Most of the combination ngrams (like 'playground' with 'children', 'school, 'safety', etc.) don't work well because there are just so many more mentions of words like 'children'.  But here is a fascinating one:  the combined ngram of 'playground' and 'obesity'. 

Note the point at which mentions of 'obesity' cross-over mentions of 'playground''s much earlier than I expected, about 1965.  And it probably reflects mostly adult obesity but still, fascinating.

And one more, 'playground' and 'risk':

No particular correlation between the two, but it shows what playgrounds are up against...a virtually flat definition of risk that expands exponentially not in say, WWII or somesuch serious time, but in the late 1970s.  And look at that line go.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The (awesome) Children's Play Information Service, London

 I'm back in the USA (and recovered from an unpleasant flu, for which I totally blame the arctic temperatures at the V&A Olympia archives where the librarians were sitting under BLANKETS but I had to check my coat in the locker!) so there will be be several follow-up posts from the London playground chat, which turned out to be a lively discussion amongst a diverse group of architect/landscape architects, representatives from playground charities and playground corporations,  independent playground builders and other interested (and interesting!) parties.  Thanks to all of you who attended, and do remember to keep in touch.

After the chat, some of us moved on to the Children's Play Information Service, whose library contained Every. Book. I have ever wanted to read about playgrounds.  Including all those hard to find vintage titles from the heady self-building, mustache-growing 1970s.  It was all I could do not to break out a pillow and settle in for the weekend.  But I will save that for my next visit.

PLUS they provide a monthly newsletter for those in the play sector (subscribe or view archives here), AND a series of helpful factsheets on aspects of play and playsite development,
AND maintain a database of scholarly research into play
The 'latest news' section of the website always has interesting links, like this one to a new pdf on play and toys for the blind and partially sighted, by the British Toy and Hobby Association. 

Unfortunately they don't have an online catalog, but they do have Michael, Incredibly Nice Librarian, who is happy to help.  Just email them if you have an enquiry or want to stop may bump into me there!

P.S.  CPIS is in danger of closing due to government cutbacks...they are only funded through the end of February, just in time for me to return and camp out in the stacks.  If they were here I'd say 'write your congressman'!  Can't do that, but using their services to show how valuable they are over the next two months can't hurt.  If you're in the UK, get thee to the library, and the rest of you, sign up for the newsletter.

UPDATE:  if you have a UK postcode you can sign a petition to save the CPIS here!