Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Michael Grossert’s 3 Playgrounds, 1967–1975

"While the relationship between sculpture and architecture is still fervently being explored, it is worth wondering why the works that emerge from that conversation are more often illustrious museums or art pavilions than utilitarian playgrounds. If this has something to do with a stemming of pedagogical ardor in this century, it is still—take a look at your neighborhood playground—a shame. As Grossert himself said, his projects realized the idea of the “walk-in sculpture” that occupied him for years. Such ideas have neither flagged nor left the minds of our artists, but they are now usually called installations, their province is the museum or gallery, and their population has usually left play far, far behind."

From Quinn Latimer's review of Michael Grossert’s “3 Playgrounds, 1967–1975″ at New Jerseyy, Switzerland.

Swiss sculptor Michael Grossert contributed three playground pieces to the sometimes delirious playground conversation of the mid-century:  a play plaza conceived as a walk-in sculpture (at top, 1967, recently restored)  a climbing sculpture for a  housing park of thirty yellow, red, and blue polyester stackable elements of which half were fixed and half were left for the children to move as they pleased (middle photo, 1971, still in place) and another,  unrealized concrete landscape intended for the Résidence Grétillat in Vitry-sur-Seine, France which survives only as a model (1974) but has obvious links to his 1976 sculpture "lieu dit" (below).

(see also the exhibition's press release, with additional photos, here)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Thurton Primary School Playground, by its Children, 2011

I really love that I don't have to credit anyone but the 3-6 year old children and staff of the Thurton Church of England Primary School on this post!

Because while I adore custom playgrounds by thoughtful Arch/LArch practices, the notion that a playspace must be designed by a professional (or more often, an equipment company) is one of the worst things that has happened to play.

Looking at Thurton school's playground-creation process, as detailed in a newspaper article showcasing their commendation by both the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the South Norfolk Design Awards, is revealing.

1.  They were inspired by an idea;  in this case the picture book “Window” by Jeanne Baker.  "The children explored what they wanted to see out of their own window and what they wanted to adapt in the local environment."

This is completely different from what usually passes for a child-focused design process, in which children are simplistically asked to draw their ideal playground.  The problem with that is most kids only *know* slides and swings and platforms so that's what they draw.   People (adults, too) only choose from what they know, which is why this blog continually focuses on expanding the 'circle of know' about what a playground is and can be.

2.   Experts were utilized, but were not the primary drivers of the design.  "...the children then wrote their own questionnaires for parents, so they could further narrow down the ideas they had. They then met with landscape architects from Norfolk County Council (NCC) and landscapers to find out if some of their ideas were possible. Finally the children presented their ideas in an extraordinary school assembly to children, parents, governors, staff and the local community. The designs were shown to David Yates at NCC and he took something from each design to make the final plan."

3.  The installed design, though executed by the experts, reflected a genuine commitment to the children's goals rather than limited choices from an equipment list.  

The Thurton playscape, constructed by local firm MEO landscapes, now includes a labyrinth and story-telling area, a tiny hobbit-like house next to an amphitheatre and stage, a 'reflective' space, a secret path, a mound for rolling, tire swings, a playhouse and den-making area, and a 'really deep' sandpit.  ('tis true that most sandpits aren't deep enough for serious digging!).

Such an amazing place to play!
[All Thurton photos by Natasha Lyster]

And for comparison-purposes-only, a 'typical' primary school playground.  Make up your own mind which is good for the kids. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ball and Loop system for making forts, Chicago Children's Museum and DesignPlay Studio, 2009


While we're on the subject of interior playscapes:  Chicago-based Design Play Studio used a system of balls and loops to facilitate fort-building at an exhibit for the Chicago Children's Museum in 2009. 
This is a definite upgrade from the piles of books I used to hold down the sheets I draped over the couch and table as a child. 

I point this out because one of the (many) things I'd like to see change about public playgrounds is the feeling that they are static and fixed.

Adding loose parts helps, but in a way they just serve to point out the inadequacy of what is already there; as in "we-just-spent-$50,000-on-a-playground-and-now-we-need-something-else???"

Why not plan to make the playground itself more adaptable, more fluid?  Why not make it easy to, say, drape the playground with fabric for forts?

UPDATE:  the good folks at the Chicago Children's Museum have let me know that credit for this exhibit is also due to their in-house design team, who developed the ball and loop system by prototyping and testing it with museum visitors.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Outside the Box, Tali Buchler, Zichron Yaakov, Israel, 2011

Tali Buchler (with the help of family and friends) designed and constructed this amazing indoor playscape and modular furniture system for the community center in Zichron Yaakov, Israel that offers more scope for imagination than projects many times its budget and scale! 
The center's limited timescale (a 3 week deadline!) and budget led her to think about simple forms and materials that would allow both children and adults to express their creativity; while waiting around for classes to start or end, they can build with the oversized blocks or draw images on the pixel cork wall.

The building blocks are made from discarded cardboard and tape, designed as a modular system of interlocking cubical shapes whose dimensions and proportions of the elements are appropriate either for play or for sitting. A stage is constructed of reused shipping wooden pallets, creating 2 elongated rectangles that can be placed side by side to create a square or a long rectangle, to change the level of the floor in a way that can be used for performance or simply to define a play area.

The cork pixel wall, which refers to the local wine industry, is a 5 meter long by 2 meter tall plywood panel, with 4000 holes that can be filled with colored wine cork caps to create a pixel image.  Inserting the corks into the holes is a good simple motor skill exercise for small children.

The living room uses a series of cardboard sofas upholstered with colorful fabric to create a sitting space.  Each seat is made of 2 "L" shapes nesting; one "L" creates the arm while the other forms the back.  Since the sofas are lightweight, they are often used for play along with the blocks.

I'm currently thinking alot about interior spaces for children as we define the 'children's house' for my church's new building, and I find this incredibly inspirational...may need to include space for a cork wall.  Beautifully done, Tali!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Untitled (but it's a playground), Stefan Wykydal, 2005

Artist STEFAN Wykydal's medium-to small-scale gouaches interpret the surroundings of his everyday life:  community buildings, bus stops, schools and playgrounds. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Monster Footprints Playground, MAD Architects, Shenzhen China, 2009

I get tired of the default to poured-in-place safety surfacing, but this playscape by MAD architects puts it to creative use--making two monster-sized footprints in the middle of Shenzhen’s Citizen’s Square. 

Their careful topography allows for a surprising range of play within a single feature, from solitary musings at the edge of the space to raucous, unpredictable ball games on the puckelball-like 'pitch' of the monstrous prints.

This was a temporary installation for the 2009 Shenzhen & Hong Kong Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism...I wish it could have stayed1

[via archdaily]

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blackout Curtains for Kids Rooms can block out light, noise, heat and cold from your kids rooms

It can be tough trying to get your kids to sleep when it's light, noisy, or cold or hot outside. Blackout curtains for kids roomscan help you get control the conditions inside your kids rooms which can help settle down your kids, and get them ready for bed.
Blackout curtains for kids rooms are thermal insulated curtains that can block out 99.9% of light and 100% UV rays.
In the long summer months, it can seem impossible to get your kids to bed on time. The light can enter your kids bedroom, even with the blinds drawn. It may be long past their bedtime and your kids may be tired and irritable. Blackout curtains forkids rooms can make the room dark, and can make it seem like it is night time. It's a lot easier to get your kids to bed if the room is dark, than if it is light.

Due to their thermal insulated properties, blackout curtains for kids rooms can also block out noise, and keep your kids roomswarm in winter, and cool in summer.
When you're trying to get your kids to bed and it's noisy outside, this can give your kids a further reason to get out of bed and stay up later than you would like. Blackout curtains for kids rooms can act as barrier to what is going on outside. You may not realise exactly how much noise can get filtered in through the bedroom windows. Blocking out noise can help settle your kids down and get them ready for bed.

Whether it's hot or cold outside can also affect your efforts to get your kids to bed. You've probably heard them say that it's too hot to sleep, or that they're too cold to get comfortable to get to bed. Blackout curtains for kids rooms can insulate your kids rooms against heat and cold.
When the sun is beating down on your kid's bedroom window, it can make your kid's room really hot and steamy. It's hard to get your kid's to sleep when they're sweating. Blackout curtains for kids rooms can absorb a lot of that heat beating down on your kid's bedroom window, and make the room a lot cooler.

During winter, blackout curtains for kids rooms can help prevent cold drafts coming into your kids rooms. Blackout curtains forkids rooms can insulate your kids rooms against the cold. This should help with your heating bill.
If you're worried about getting blackout curtains for kids rooms because they might get dirty, don't be too concerned. Blackout curtains for kids rooms are machine washable. You can just take them down and place them in the washing machine, hang them out to dry and then you're done.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Back to School? Get Your Kid's School Supplies and Be Cool!

The truth is that not every kid is excited to go to school. That's because school means waking up early, doing homework, finishing exams and accomplishing projects. But school is both meaningful and exciting too, because every kid is bound to make new friends and experience learning. But that's not the only motivation though - because kids are also excited about their new clothes, shoes, pencils, notebooks and the whole gamut of things they will be needing (or they say they will be needing) in school. Now don't let this be confusing for you - there are things kids want and things that kids need so just make sure that you have all the basics when it comes to back to school supplies for kids.
Here are some of the most common school supplies kids really need when going back to school:

Bag - Every kid wants a new schoolbag and no parent would insist on letting his/her child use last year's schoolbag if a new bag is affordable anyway. Consider what your kid wants for his or her bag. Some bags have certain characters printed on them like Spider-Man or the cast of High School Musical. Let your kid choose, but don't get something that's too big for them to carry. Try to estimate whether you're his notebooks and other school materials would fit in the bag, because when it comes to bag, size and design are both important.

Notebooks - Now notebooks are certainly necessary. They come in different sizes, designs and different line formats (all blue or black lines, or the alternate blue and red lines). Make sure that you get one that's appropriate for your child's grade level. Again, give your child the freedom to choose a certain cover. Check out the kind of paper used in the notebooks too, get ones that are thick enough and have high quality. Notebooks that are too cheap tend to be the kind that get easily torn or broken when erasures are made.

Writing materials - This includes pencils, pens, erasers, sharpeners as well as art materials like crayons. They come in different designs as well so let your child choose whatever design he or she wants. Just remember that pencils come in different kinds - some are used for writing while others are used for drawing and stenciling. Some write more clearly than others, and they're really made that way, so pay attention if a certain number is indicated on the pencil because that probably means something.

So a bag, some notebooks and writing materials are the basic back to school supplies for kids. You might also need to buy some pad paper, glue and a pair of scissors. It might also be a good idea to get your kid a lunch or snack box of his or her choice. Now other art materials like watercolor or paint and bond paper are more likely to be announced by your child's art teacher during the first week of class so you don't really need to buy them right away. The basics are the most important however, so don't let your child go to school without these things.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/3044651

Thursday, January 12, 2012

More Playground rollercoasters: Kompan's 'Miram'

The Danish playground manufacturing company Kompan's 'Miram' play feature provides a coaster-like experience to a child seated on one of its two tracks; kids can also stand up for a skateboard-like ride.

One of Miram's most thoughtful features is the provision of a standing space on either end of the structure for friends or onlookers; allowing the play to include elements of community and performance.

I feature 'equipment' only rarely, but this looks like great fun.

[first image source, all others via kompan affiliates]

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

'Magic Mountain' Rollercoaster climber, Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth, Duisburg, Germany, 2011

German artists Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth installed an elevated walking path, a frozen roller coaster track that loops to 147 feet above the landscape on a hill in Duisburg Germany.  I love roller coasters, and often look over at the maintenance staircase next to the tracks and wonder what it would be like to climb instead of ride.  Now we know, except for the loop-the-loop of course.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rethinking the History of Childhood, Jan 14, University of Greenwich (I'll be there)

image from the website of Ray Wills, a veteran playworker in adventure playgrounds

 The University of Greenwich Centre for the Study of Play and Recreation is hosting a conference next Saturday, January 14, on "Rethinking the History of Childhood", including a morning session entitled 'The Rise and Fall of Playgrounds'.

As I happen to be in London at the moment I'll be there; not speaking, just attending, but if you're in the area and would like to say hello and share playground thoughts, please do stop by!  The conference is free, but you must register to attend, or I'll be hanging about after the morning session and stopping by the coinciding exhibition on junk play at the university's Stephen Lawrence Gallery

"The exhibition will explore historical and contemporary representations of a movement for children’s play space. This started life in the late 1940s as Junk play and has become better known as Adventure play. The show will include videos and photos from the personal archives of playworkers and play researchers. The story told by contemporary images and constructions will capture the practical ways children use these spaces to understand and deal with the city as an 'imposed environment'."

The idea of the junk playground originated with the Danish landscape architect Carl Theodor Sørensen, but its greatest champion was Lady Allen Hurtwood, whose Planning for Play is of course now available in digital edition through Playscapes.

Hope to see some of you in Greenwich! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

High Line Children's Workyard Kit, Cas Holman, NYC, 2011

Industrial and toy designer Cas Holman made an engaging set of loose parts for New York's High Line Park this past summer.    Reflecting the industrial history of the area, the collection of wooden planks wheels, pulleys, ringbolts, and rope allow for free assembly and tinkering...the components can be used to convey buckets or materials, or become a giraffe or an airplane or in Cas' words, just a "thingy".  Kids like to build thingys, and who's to say what it looks like in their imagination anyway?

Great work by Cas (the kit is patent pending, so I hope it will soon be more widely available!) in conjunction with Early Learning Educators and Friends of the High Line, who are considering more ways of facilitating play withing the High Line landscape.