Swarovski’s Crystal World Playscape, Wattens Austria, Snøhetta, 2015

An interesting aspect of new playground patronage systems are the playspaces designed by large corporations as part of the visitor experience.  These can be virtually unlimited in both budget and design conception, as the “Mobiversum” of  Volkswagon proves.   It’s certainly not unusual for business to install playgrounds…but they’re usually rather boring holding pens. I’m now seeing a trend of design-focused corporations selecting bespoke play installations as carefully as they would their lobby art.

Swarovski, for example, hired Norwegian design practice Snøhetta to add play spaces to their “Crystal Worlds”, which has become one of Austria’s most popular tourist destinations.  Snohetta used a playable roof that undulates for sliding, extending from outside into the interior of a faceted play tower filled with nets, crystalline climbers, and a beautiful assembly of close hung swings. (I’ve been longing to see clustered swings in a playscape ever since I posted Lea Lim’s Silence installation, so thank you Snøhetta!)

These new corporate landscapes are a real “win” for the playground conversation–encouraging both practitioners and the public to see spaces for play as artistic and beautiful and worthy of serious design attention.   They’re generally multi-generational; designed to appeal to a broad age range rather than ‘just’ children, as more public playgrounds should be.  And corporate playground patrons are willing to take risks in design and form and yes, money, that specifiers of municipal public spaces just can’t.  High-style corporate playgrounds are a great trend that will help push playgrounds toward new ideas, and I welcome that.

[images via Swarovski and Snøhetta]

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