Merging Path and Playground

One of the common threads I pulled in both the London and New York events was this idea of merging the playground with the city itself.  This is particularly interesting in thinking about making play space PATH, rather than DESTINATION.   Jenette-Emery Wallis spoke of the edges of the new North Park playground as ‘permeable’.  West 8’s Madrid riverbank project is essentially one enormous path with play opportunities trotting alongside it at intervals; no fences, and no generational divides.  The check-in kiosks Suisman Urban Design (another of the MoMA speakers) used for a walking event were more successful when placed OVER the paths rather than alongside them.  We should know this, really; it’s why the medieval gate wasn’t just an entrance, it was also a shopping mall.

These are no narrow footpaths begrudgingly allowing access through the playscape.  No, they are wide pedestrian walkways that often honor routes already trafficked by residents, like the playground below in London’s EC1, where our intrepid guide Liz Kessler noted that an unanticipated benefit of merging path and playground was having the play space continually supervised by community residents passing through it to and from their shopping.

Merging Path and Playground de-ghettoizes the playspace, so that it is no longer children-only, but a part of the urban fabric that everyone experiences.  And hopefully it reinforces the notion that children and their play are a welcome part of the entire city, not just of fenced-off and name-plated “playgrounds”.

For a long time now we’ve been setting aside spaces in cities and towns for playgrounds.  That has been good and necessary, because at least they don’t get built on.  But it’s time and past time to move beyond that definition, and to make more enlightened decisions about where and how we site spaces for play.

Do you know of more play spaces that merge path and playground?  I’d love to hear about them.

Photos via west8


One Response to “Merging Path and Playground”

  1. Battery Park Playscape, Asplan Viak, Trondheim Norway, | Playscapes said:

    […] when I posted about the idea of merging path and playground, reader Mari sent me a link to the ‘Battery Park’ (Ladeparken or Sirkusparken) by […]

    June 20, 2013 at 3:29 pm

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