Ratatosk, Helen and Hard, 2010

I’ve just seen the ‘Ratatosk’ playsculpture, installed by Dag Strass and Caleb Reed for Norwegian firm Helen and Hard as part of the “1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces” exhibit at the V&A.  Though inspired by childhood experiences of climbing trees and described in the brief as a climbing structure, the split ash posts–cunningly joined (see photo) to smaller branches that splay out into a canopy of willow strips–were too fragile to really play on, and even the children out in the garden just gazed at it, avoiding both the museum guard on watch and the amorphous net bags of mulch forming its base (sensibly corralled, I suppose, to avoid any messy scattering,), which together added up to a forbidding, rather than inviting, installation.

Nevertheless, a pleasing visual and inspiring use of natural materials, though more about display than play.  Which is a failing playground designers must be careful to avoid, I think.

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