And speaking of play-as-performance…Matt Reilly of the art performance/band Japanther “adds paint to the wheels of his board and skates directly on to his canvas to create large, abstract paintings while putting on a live performance. The process is definitely an important part of the experience both for the artist and its audience, and the end result becomes more than just abstract color bands on a canvas.” [found at upperplayground]
In 2013 KATOxVictoria was selected as 1 of 4 young Danish architecture offices tasked with realizing a Danish project that had been proposed by local citizens, and moving from idea to installation in just three months with a limited budget.
They met the challenge in Slangerup, about an hour from Copenhagen, where the local youth school (12 to 16 year olds) had no provision for play–making them “lazy and bored’–with the construction of a courtyard hangout, a stadium with grandstands, a skate ramp, and a ‘monkey mountain’ jungle gym set in sand.
“The balance here was to create some kind of Teenage Architecture which wouldn’t dictate a certain use.. like playgrounds…These are not kids but young adults. How to create structures that are open for any kind of personal use and exploration….the teenagers were central in the whole projects from beginning to end. They defined the initial problems, they joined us in our office for sketching and they were on the construction site building the structures along with parents and teachers with an immense feeling of ownership…during the 4 weeks of construction we moved the entire office to Slangerup with office space in a spare classroom and rooms at the local metal school.”
The involvement of the teens in the design and construction process is truly impressive: don’t miss the construction photos.
Note that each one of the installations has significant ‘audience’ space…the grandstands at the basketball court, the great geometric steps by the skate ramps, even the solid parts of the pavilion on the monkey mountain. Teens basically want a space to hang out, and to show off. To keep them happy, a play area must have designated seating space for an audience, which also conveniently serves simply as hang-out space when no one is ‘performing’.
“We wanted to make something that could reflect the emotional drama that floats around a teenager, so we made big things in robust materials that can be used in various ways. We hope that the teenagers will occupy the areas in their own way; in short, everything you do when you are learning to embrace yourself and the world you build up around you.”
I love to see play spaces that address the needs of older children. Well done, KATOxVictoria.
[Photos by Rasmus Hjortshøj; see also an interview with the architects at wallpaper]
A classic self-built seventies playscape at Neskowin Valley School on the Oregon coast c. 1979: tall swings, a climbing platform, concrete sewer pipe and a boat! All in a sandpit. [source]
TBT Swing for Fifteen! From a delightful set of images of play pre-Health and Safety regs at the Daily Mail.
An early twentieth century double slide, single stair system. I’d love to see this recreated with the support as a playhouse/climber! See more of the history of Hanscom Park at the Omaha Public Library.
According to Chilean architecture firm Elemental, Chile has struggled to advance its urban standards, particularly its public space provisions, along with the economic growth it has experienced in the last decade. “Santiago for example, has no single place where to go for a long walk”. This four hectare children’s park with its unusual ‘hill of slides’, built in honor of Chile’s bicentennial park, is hoped to be the first installation of a 10 km pedestrian promenade formed from an old agricultural canal. Path-as-play!
This may be the most unusual playground theme ever…a giant climbable aardvark, wearing a golden party hat, constructed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Burger’s Zoo in Arnhem. Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman is known for his cheeky installations that look like dropped children’s toys, including a massive rubber ducky that visits waterfronts around the world. His sculptures–giant cuddle bunnies, stairclimbing slugs made of plastic bags, a monkey made of flipflops, a thatch muskrat–have always been playful in forms and materials, but not explicitly playable, until this commission for the party aardvark in his bed of sand.
Surreal, but I see kids enjoying the massive scale much in the same way as they do the Gulliver playground, particularly the cavern-like folds of that enormous aardvark ear!
For TBT, thanks to crochetconcupiscence for unearthing these images of Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam’s early work, as published in 1972 in The Crocheter’s Art, by Del Feldman. You can clearly see the forms and ideas that would later develop into glorious playgrounds: the works are titled Hanging 101, and Climb, Lie Down, Tumble, Roll.
Before we leave our brief excursion into rooftop playgrounds, take a thoughtful look at the 1957 proposal from Mechanix Illustrated to put baseball diamonds, swimming pools, and boxing rings onto urban rooftops; their “bold plan to fight juvenile delinquency and get kids off the streets”.
The plan itself is interesting enough, but the fear-mongering in the article is extreme: references to “danger-hour” when the “nightly muggings would begin…and young girls would be afraid to venture out alone. Beatings were commonplace and gang wars, fiercely fought with knives and zip-guns, were a frequent occurrence….teen-age terrorism is costing you many hundreds of additional tax dollars every year, not to mention the hours of worry for the safety of self, family and property.”
Playgrounds began, remember, as an element of social reform, providing a playful alternative for street urchins by making sand piles in public parks in the late nineteenth century. The fear then was of petty theft and disorder, and the urchins were generally quite young; older children were forced into some sort of labor to support themselves and their families. This 1950s document displays a different sort of fear, of an older child and a more violent crime, but providing a play ‘landscape’ is still seen as an answer. There is a modern parallel in the way cities view their public parks, and particularly their skate parks.
But the ‘Playgrounds in the Sky’ proposed here seem like isolation wards, and it is doubtful that they would have been any more successful than were the high-rise tenements of the same era, now deemed to have been dramatic failures of misguided social engineering.
Our playground enemies du jour are childhood obesity and accidental injury, and still sometimes teen delinquency. But the answers won’t be found by appealing to people’s fears.
The rise of the suburban shopping mall seems to have doomed the department store rooftop playground in the United States but it lives on in Asia, where Alan Maskin of Olson Kundig Architects and Korean artist Do-Ho Suh have created a something more that just a children’s play space; a ‘secret park’ on the rooftop of the Shinsegae store in Uijeongbu, South Korea.
They consider the garden “a prototype for how cities might grow in the future, turning the tops of buildings into public spaces and parks”, and its goal was to create a distinctive outdoor space for the entire family.
“At the heart of the experience is a series of “outdoor rooms”—a tree house, maze garden, mist room, archaeological dig, bird’s nest, and elephant fountain. With sculptures by Suh and mechanical animals fabricated by local art students and craftspeople, the spaces in the garden were designed for discovery.
Some of the garden’s content was inspired by traditional Korean tapestries depicting a magical garden that contains several traditional symbols of longevity such as cranes, deer, mist, water, and pine trees. A prominent feature of the garden is the presence of many sotdae—carved wooden birds sitting upon wooden totems that were historically used to ward off evil spirits. These elements, along with the inclusion of regional plants, were the direct result of extensive research into the local culture and site conditions.
Maskin describes the project as being designed “in totality” with architects, builders, artists, botanists, landscapers, and fabricators specializing in water play and mist, all coming together in a synergistic manner.” A local mother who visits the garden three times a week says, “Before this garden, Uijeongbu had no clean and safe places to spend time with children.” It has become part of the daily routine for many families.”
Clearly I need to stop this and get back to science but just one more…the rooftop playground of the Auckland, New Zealand Farmers’ Trading Company store in 1929. Farmer’s was the first store in New Zealand to provide a rooftop play space for its customers. It is quite different from the American examples, which is interesting. [source]
Another antique rooftop playground…this time at the Crescent Department Store in Spokane, Washington c. 1910. So far this is looking like a West Coast trend, rather than an East Coast one. [source]
A much earlier example is this 1912 indoor rooftop playground, complete with swings, slides, and sandbox, atop the Capwell Department Store in Oakland, which later merged with the Emporium. Perhaps the origin of their interest in rooftop play? These department store playgrounds are really interesting spaces with direct socioeconomic ramifications, ripe for study…anyone looking for a thesis topic? Do you remember a department store playground? [source]
San Francisco’s Emporium department store, built in 1896, featured an assortment of rooftop entertainments from the 1940s through the 1980s. The rooftop slide was installed in 1968. The Emporium closed for good in 1996, but is still remembered fondly.
More stores should have slides, yes? (thanks, Susan!)
tres birds workshop was commissioned to design an innovative playscape for Vail with a dreamy brief: “Aside from safety standards and guidelines, tres birds was given little direction and a lot of trust to design and implement a concept that would create an impression on Vail residents and visitors alike.”
Their assembly of beautifully crafted nests were made to mimic the design of skis, using a variety of wood species and treated with an non-toxic oil/wax/tree resin mixture. The nests are connected by ropes and bridges, and set on a climbing wall that adds to the opportunities for play. Various heights were used to allow adaptive use by different ages and abilities. I like the way the elongated nest forms suggest the flames of the fire pit that sits below it next to an ice rink.
“At night, LED light beams shine from the center steel posts of each nest and make the park not just a kids destination, but an art installation for all ages to enjoy.” It is rare that playgrounds add to the beauty of a public space, rather than detract from it. But this one does.