“We wanted to consider the playground as an entity making up a landscape of activities and different sensations,” says Bedin. They settled on a series of archetypal forms of play: basic game forms that were popular with three-to-six-year- olds and which the designers could use as a starting point. There were six in all: the slide; the climbing-frame; the maze; movement; hide-and-seek; and the sandpit.
“They form a litany of children’s games that has probably been much the same for decades if not for centuries,” explains Bedin. “The typologies that we developed are archetypes. The seesaw, the play mat, the inflatable, the slide – we tried to work with things that already exist. Piotr Sierakowski’s pile of pink plastic branches, for instance, are what in France we have always called la cage a poules [climbing-frame]. “
Un Jeu d’Enfants is as much about exploring what is possible and laying down the gauntlet for other designers as it is about creating new games.”
A mom’s list of design requirements for a pre-schooler’s playground:
Age-appropriate equipment, arranged so that children can play creatively without ever being completely out of sight of a parent.
Baby swings and a few “big kid” swings
A fence, which need not be high, but must enclose the entire perimeter, and must end either in a gate or a “baffle” – a series of turns that slows a child down. (OK, a playground expert recommended baffles to me, but I still say gate, preferably one that clangs loudly when you open it.)
A water fountain and a bathroom, or if a bathroom is too much of a crime magnet, a portable toilet well stocked with sanitizer and cleaned on a regular basis.
benches placed at regular intervals close in along the perimeter of the play area
Shade that covers at least one bench
a Picnic table or two, under a shelter would be even better
A small sand pit, for children who will inevitably end up digging in whatever dirt is available
A sidewalk running around the benches and play structures, in good repair and suitable for riding trikes.
A little grass around the edges, if there’s space available.
“surprisingly little attention has been paid to the design of children’s playspaces…playgrounds across Europe remain almost untouched by advances in material or design technology..The children’s playground business is dominated by a few installation companies and myriad small-scale manufacturers, whose profitability depends on installing the same apparatus over and over again. They resist novelty and the consequent pressure to follow fashion.”