#PlaySculptureSaturday: Stone Cars and Trucks

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It’s quite common to see cars and trucks or even tractors carved out of wood on the playground, but it stopped me in my tracks to see these stacked stone constructions!  I think kids would really enjoy climbing on these.  And it’s a wonderful way to involve local craftspeople in designing for play.  [found at the stoneartblog]

Sculptor Nancy Rubins arranges discarded playground equipment into exploding forms.  She’s currently working in post-war metal pieces, like spring riders…I’d love to see this idea expanded into the decaying plastic forms of the 1980s.  [ ‘Our Friend Fluid Metal, Chunkus Majoris’, 2013. Aluminum and stainless steel. © Nancy Rubins. Photography by Robert McKeever.]

I always enjoy the work of London-based Superblue Design….here a very playful fence that morphs into seating and a gate for Deptford Park in London.

#PlaySculptureSaturday: Midcentury Concrete Slides, University of Phillipines

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Unattributed, mysterious sculpture at the University of the Phillipines in Diliman.  Beautiful photography by Dan Matutina, via flickr in the first photograph; the second, by city tales,  shows that the sculpture once had a sandpit alongside.   An additional photo by Chris Villarin shows a higher but complementary slide, and they are nearby the university’s College of Architecture, so perhaps a mid-century student experiment in play sculpture and concrete construction?  Inspired by Egon Moller-Nielsen?   If you have any additional information, do help solve the mystery.

guest post

How Strange are our Dangers? How Dangerous are Strangers?

New York City playground signWashington Square playground fenceMadrid's Rio Park - no fence!Norway's Geo Park - no fence!Princeton's Marquand Park - no fence!

Editor’s Note:  I’m pleased to welcome play historian and expert Susan Solomon’s second column here at Playscapes.  In it, she challenges our overblown ‘fear of strangers’, and the limitations that fear places on how we design and use places for play.  Key quote:  ” If we see the playground as a potentially vibrant public space, then we have to rethink what it looks like and who goes there”

Watch for a permanent place for all of Susan’s “After the Deadline” columns in the blog sidebar coming soon! For now, read on…


How Strange are our Dangers? How Dangerous are Strangers?
by Susan Solomon

I have vivid memories of the trip my husband (who is also my trusted photographer) and I made to the Princes Diana Playground in Hyde Park, London. The playground opened in 2000 and we made our way there in 2004.  It was a bleak, bitterly cold December morning, just after the opening hour.  There were no children anywhere.  We walked up to a high gate and heard from an anonymous voice (with hindsight, the camera and speaker system were stunningly advanced for a decade ago) that we could not enter without a child.


The faceless gate did not want to hear that I had a contract to write a book about playgrounds and that this was a professional visit.  No kids meant no access.  I was that told that somewhere- quite far away-I could appeal the judgment but we were actually headed to the airport.  We settled for walking around the perimeter; my spouse took copious photos by placing his close up lens through the bars of the fence.


There are so many levels of silliness in this type of “protective” activity.  There were no children present; I had credentials; my husband could have documented every inch of the site if he had some nefarious activity in mind.  Annoyed, not offended, I recall this non-visit almost every time that I go to an urban public American playground.  While British colleagues tell me that the Diana playground is an aberration for the UK because it is a Royal Park that has its own rules, American urban playgrounds often have at least one sign on a fence that tells me I can come in only if I have a child in tow. New York City, for example, has park rules that create playground zones, where a child under twelve yeas old must accompany an adult.


It seems almost diabolical to question policy that presumes to shield youngsters from kidnappers and predators.   And, yet, we should ask if isolating playgrounds from the rest of the world is really necessary. Is it productive to relegate playgrounds to just children and their caregivers/parents?  Fear of strangers surely exists but is  “stranger danger” justified? Read more…


Just a housekeeping note that this week we’ll be adding our Playscapes correspondents’ posts into the email feed so that you get all the posts in one place…hiccups may arise!


Quetzalcoatl, Collette Crutcher, San Francisco, 2006

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Another Aztec-inspired playscape is  Collette Crutcher’s Quetzalcoatl:  one of the most beautiful examples of playground mosaic that I know.  The feathered snake of the Aztec twists and turns through a small pocket park at 24th and York in San Francisco, mirrored eyes gleaming,  dodging water jets as it goes.  The safety surfacing was required for the installation, but in this case I think the designers did an admirable job of connecting the coloring and and pattern to the art, particularly via a build-up of the snake’s tongue. [photos via the San Francisco Chronicle and Collette Crutcher.]  

Very pleased to receive word that the Donne Buck Archive of Play and Playgrounds, a collection largely about the adventure playground movement in 1960s-1990s Britain, has found a new home at the Victoria and Albert Museum after funding was cut at the Children’s Play Information Service.  Assistant curator Alice Sage will be blogging her finds at CollectingChildhood, and is also the point of contact for scholars who might wish to access the archive for research. [Thanks, Alice!]

I was intrigued to find, when researching the Lost Aztec Playground of Los Angeles, that there are other Aztecian installations:  I like the bright red gloss on this pyramid slide at the Dallas Arboretum.  [source]

#TBT Vintage Aztec Playground, Lincoln Park, Los Angeles, c. 1973

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“These photos were taken on the last days before this playground was unnecessarily destroyed. My kids enjoyed this more than the new playground that replaced it.”

For Throwback Thursday, the sad tale of the lovely Aztec Playground at Lincoln Park (formerly Eastside Park) in Los Angeles California,  whose life and demise is lovingly chronicled by an anonymous devotee of the park, source of all the photos in this post.

I doubt that the new, manufactured playground played the same role in the 85,000 person strong “Festival of Friends” that the Aztec playground had.  Special places beget special events.  The Aztec playground was special.  The new playground….wasn’t.

Maybe we should start calling this #PreservationThursday.  If you know of a vintage playground that is endangered and needs preserving, get in touch!

[no information on the designer, exact date of construction, or date of demolition...if you have more info please do leave a comment!]


So, I forgot to take down the holiday book deal on January 1, as scheduled.  By popular demand I’ll leave it up through the end of this week…if you want to take advantage of buy-4-get-1-free vintage playground book downloads then purchase by midnight on Saturday the 10th!


Play Nets in Caves: Bounce Below, Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales, 2014

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The bouncy caves of Wales have been already been all over the internet, but I’ll post them here too, as a particularly dramatic reminder of how play has the ability to revitalize–to utterly remake–neglected spaces.   If playful nets can do this for a damp, dark cave, what can play do to revitalize an ugly and forgotten part of your city?  Think about it.  And if when you share your ideas people think you are crazy, remember that someone in Wales had the courage to say, “I’d like to put a bunch of bouncy nets down an abandoned slate mine.”    Making great play takes courage…like “Bounce Below’, it is not for the faint of heart.

[Bounce Below is closed until February 13 as its owners add even more play features.  Via mymodernmet,  thanks to Chris for reminding me about it!]

Lazona Kawasaki Plaza, Earthscape, Tokyo Japan, 2006

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“To walk the streets as if in a movie…where the city is the hero.”

That was the goal of the design for the giant Lazona Kawasaki Plaza shopping mall by Japanese landscape firm Earthscape.  It includes a dedicated playground with origami-like folds, whose tricky surfaces are an *appropriate*, design-driven use for full-on safety surfacing.  And yet they didn’t neglect the sand…the tilted sliding surface (the one without footholds) ends in a sandpit.  But I especially like that Earthscape filled the entire area with more subtle play features:  color furniture in child-scaled steps, walkways gridded with rainbow-light panels, and lyrical dove planters.  To make a space truly child-friendly, it must be woven with play beyond the playground itself.

[all images via Earthscape except the second image, which is by Susan Solomon, who also includes it in The Science of Play.  Which you should get, if you have not yet.]

#PlaySculptureSaturday: Tarax, Peter Corlett, 1969

You can play on Peter Corlett’s 1969 ferroconcrete bubbles at the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park near Melbourne Australia. [img via redbubble]

Top Playscapes Posts from 2014

top 2014 posts sidewalk-trampolines-copenhagen-denmarktop 2014 posts Swing-at-the-End-of-the-World-ecuador1top 2014 posts kukuk-natural-creative-playground-design1top posts 2014 toshiko-horiuchi-macadam-crochet-playscape-harmonic-motion1-1024x682top 2014 posts pulse-park-playground-playscape-CEBRA4top 2014 posts bishan-park-playground-atelier-dreisetl1-1024x682top 2014 posts rainbow-of-ropes-playground-playscape-virginia-melnyk61

In case you missed them!  The top posts from this year’s 186 posts (whew!) , ranked according to total page interactions, are:

1.  The sidewalk trampolines of Copenhagen

2.  The swing at the end of the world in Banos, Ecuador

3.  The playground nests of Kukuk

4.  Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam’s wonderful new net installation in Rome (previous posts on Toshiko’s works are among the most popular all-time posts at Playscapes).

5.  The multi-generational and fitness-focused Pulse Park in Arhus Denmark by CEBRA

6.  The avant-garde Bishan Park Playscape in Singapore

7.  The rainbow of ropes proposed by Virginia Melnyk (I really hope it gets built this year!)

It’s really great to see you readers self-selecting for beauty and innovation!  It’s been a great year for play.