Staying in London, don’t miss the wonderful videos of adventure play, both modern and contemporary, that the great organization London Play has been uploading. My personal faves are below: c 1960s footage of the Notting Hill adventure playground, a 1970s view of Lady Allen of Hurtwood at a playspace in Chelsea, and a modern survey of London Adventure playgrounds by the BBC from just last month!
Are You Making an Amazing Playground?
Thanks to all who have already submitted their great projects. If you haven’t, this is your last call…get in touch with when and where you’re building, and what makes it so special, by MONDAY MARCH 10 to be considered for the television series! (USA only, at least for now!)
Throwback Thursday…photographer Mick Rock’s shot of a kid cardboard guitarist in an adventure playground was the original cover photo for the Mott the Hoople album “All The Young Dudes”, produced by David Bowie. It was replaced before final production. (Knowing that makes me sound way cooler than I actually am…I first found it here). A print sold at Christie’s for $1250 in 2008. That’s Camden Town Adventure Playground in the background I think, but I’m not quite sure…any help from my London friends? Nils?
Virginia Melnyk has also proposed a ‘Rainbow of Ropes’ to convert unused vacant lots to community hang-outs:
“In a city, the vacant lot becomes a space of emptiness, a place that people try to avoid. The Rainbow of Ropes, attempts to reactivate these types of spaces by building a playground for children and adults alike. The conic shapes and tunnel like forms are inviting for people to climb inside. The web like structure is made of rope woven between structural steel hoops. The rope can be soft and comfortable to climb, sit, and lounge on. Open to the fresh air, the density of the rope filters light to shade inhabitants as they play inside. Rainbow of Ropes reactivates a dead space into a colorful and exciting place where everyone can come together and play like a kid. “
I’d really like to see this built.
Virginia Melnyk designed a playful house made of cardboard tubes for a competition in Toronto that reimagined the Sukkah, the pavilions constructed during the Jewish festival of Sukkot. Sukkahs are by design temporary, so the durability of the tubes wasn’t an issue, but perhaps more resilient structures could be constructed in the same way (with reference to Shigeru Ban, naturally!).
I’ve been away from posting for a bit after a car accident…glad to be back, and glad to be fine! No long-term damage, except to the car. And now on to the Pulse Park, lately installed by CEBRA in the new suburb of Kildebjerg Ry near Arhus, Denmark.
It’s a great playscape but I’m particularly interested in its pavilion. In garden history, pavilions of all sorts are one of the key markers for how people engage with the landscape. From the Tudor gazebo (not an 8-sided wooden thing but a little room attached to a wall from which ladies could overlook the street) to banqueting houses and grottoes and even public spaces like bandstands, they uniquely extend the inside into the outside. And people really like them. I will hazard an educated guess that including some sort of a pavilion–a partially covered indoor/outdoor space–will increase use and engagement at almost any playground.
The Pulse Park pavilion is shielded by a trellising and bounded by a moat to emphasize its contemplative, quieter purpose alongside three zones designed for more active play and for all ages together: Pulse, Play and Path. In Pulse, the interesting concrete and safety surfacing forms are tough and appropriate for skating, biking and running, and the ground plane drops into bowls of the sort used by Olympic athletes for training…but they also serve as great tilted surfaces for a child’s feel-risky-play-safe. Note that the concrete climber is sited so that it can also be a ‘grandstand’ for the running bowls.
There’s more obvious play equipment in Play: wooden climbers and swings given a great modern look with the addition of white connecting sleeves. There is absolutely no segregation of the ages though…the same timber members from which the swings are suspended are studded with challenging climbing holds. The path is an track that rises and falls for greater challenge as it loops through the space, with flashing LEDS to pace you, and connects to longer routes. Let me say again that the simple design intervention of a track adds a whole new layer of active play to almost any play space…instead of a non-functional ‘edge’, use a track.
Very well done by CEBRA…lots of inspiration here!
Additional information from UNO (who sponsored the climbing forest), and the official Pulse Park site (which has more great videos that I wish were in English). See also an interesting timeline of the Pulse Park development, and some press coverage of the park…including the role a toilet seat played in its development!
This fascinating image of local context (tiki bar! banana stall!) in an early playground comes from an interesting post on Hawaaiian playground history by Peter Young: ”Established in 1895, the Free Kindergarten and Children’s Aid Association…[founded]the first public playground in [Honolulu] in 1911, Beretania Playground, at the corner of Beretania and Smith streets in the heart of Chinatown. It was intended for boys and girls under ten, and for older girls accompanying the very young, and the “play garden” was open seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm.” The association established four playgrounds (Beretania, Kamāmalu, Atkinson and Aʻala) and the city’s first municipally established playgrounds were Kaimuki, Dole Park, Kalihi-Kai, Kauluwela and Kalihi-Waena.
I’ve had this image in my files for awhile…it’s from a 2005 museum display on universal design and the wheelchair-accessible circles have stayed in my mind. While allowing disabled access it doesn’t prevent other kids from pursuing a more challenging experience with the maze walls, and I like that. I only have this one photo of the exhibit; no info on designer. Can anyone offer more information? [source]
Artist and architect Shin Egashira refers to his double-curvature fibrocement constructions as ‘urban toys’. And once again I lament that there is not enough overlap between the world of art and the world of playground design!
For a project in the most northeastern part of Norway–as far east as Istanbul–Steinsvik Architects designed a playground that captures the sun: pinning it down as a faceted orange climbing wall that spills out onto free flowing play hills.
It is a unique challenge to make an outdoor playscape in such a cold climate, and there must be shelter: an arcade partially covers the climbing walls whose triangulated vertical surfaces actually become a warmer microclimate in the low solar angles of the far north. A passive solar playground; great concept. The orange flows out into the scattered playground forms,making a striking contrast with the snow. The arcade is used for outdoor teaching as well as just hanging out, and play can flow to the bike and skateboard friendly concrete forms as well.
Well done by Steinsvik, who share credit for their great project with “the teachers and in particularly the principals (who) were really important in their focus on how a good outdoor playground prevents kids pestering each other and instead supports them in constructive play and cooperation. It was a really good process; good intentions from local authorities and teachers produced a good program and after a well-organized competition the chosen winner was not the cheapest and the contractor they got had good conditions for doing good work – we do feel the result is positive and mirrors this good process.”
[thanks for sending, Mari!]
And on Valentine’s Day I always like to revisit the heart-shaped playscape Helle Nebelong designed for the children of Valby School…most playground consultations with children are distressingly shallow; the adults go away and do their own thing regardless. But Helle gave the children what they asked for, and it’s lovely and charming and childlike and kindof perfect.
More geodesicity…Arc2 Architecture used a geodesic structure to support a multigenerational play space at the Hengrove Playpark in Bristol UK. Rather than growing up from the ground the play structures are suspended from the dome roof, which is 25 metres in diameter and constructed of Azobé hardwood. It is interesting to see a playscape that is so not about the ground. Arc2 mentions the ‘thrilling sensation’ that kids get from ascending the structure; this is another example of a ‘feel-risky-play-safe’ design technique.
I particularly like their focus on designing for ‘vigorous’ play. Most playgrounds anticipate such a tame and placid variety of play that it is no wonder they get it, and that children lack the health and anti-obesity benefits playgrounds could help provide. Plan for vigorous!
Buckminster Fuller designed a variety of dome types, though only the geodesic has ended up as a common playground piece. I like the ‘fly-eye’ dome, one of which was temporarily installed in New York City and turned out to be quite playable! [photo by Brian Dubé]
My chemist heart skipped a beat when I heard about the new Carbon Playground at the Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, IL, the first place in the world where children can experience the atomic-level structure of carbon, writ large as playground climbers in C60, nanotube, and graphene forms!
C60, aka the ‘buckyball’ is already a familiar form on the playground, forming the basis for the geodesic dome climbers based upon the structural imaginings of Buckminster Fuller (thus the buckyball name) and popular since the 1960s. But while those vintage climbers look molecular, they aren’t true to the actual structure. This climber is, because it was designed from, yes, X-ray Crystallography Data! Be still my heart.
The twisting nanotube is a 5 feet long rope tunnel woven into the pattern of a carbon nanotube, and the graphene sheet–which you can think of as a flat single layer of hexagons–is currently being installed as a climbing wall.
The playground pieces are approximately 2.7 billion times larger than the actual molecules.
“The Carbon Playground Project has generated much interest and is being disseminated through theNanoscale Informal Science Education Network. We are considering building additional sets of the three basic models as well as adding additional structures in the future, such as screw dislocation “trees”, a diamond network solid, graphite, and a C70 buckyball; other possibilities are conical micro-point sections of carbon and metal oxide tetrapods.” I cannot wait.
And this is an appropriate time to say, because I know you were wondering, that my new company has synthesized its first nanoparticles, yayhooray! They look like brown sludge. Everyone expects them to sparkle or spin or something. (Aside to the google people who read the blog: I know how to power your contact lens without that fiddly wireless power. Get in touch.)
[See also previous post on the interesting geodesic climber by South Korean Sehwah Oh]
“A child is so small in comparison to the world at large” is the subtitle of this painting by Australia-born but Tuscany-resident Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013). His work focused on the relationship of a still human figure to geometric surroundings. [source]