Skadbergbakken Playground, Helen and Hard, Sola, Norway, 2015

Norwegian architectural firm Helen and Hard are best known, in the playground world, for their innovative Geopark, which references the oilfield history of Stavanger in both its recycled materials and its geologic forms.  They’re doing something different at a new housing development in Sola:  weaving small, more naturalized playscapes throughout the development space, as connections between ‘yards’ based on the spatial organization of the old farms in their region.

Rather than building a centralized playground as ‘destination’ in the development, Helen and Hard have taken a ‘play-as-path‘ approach.   The play-as-path concept–in which play spaces and play features are constructed around, and intersect with, walkways–allows kids to engage with the space either in a focused fashion or simply along their way, by hopping on a stone wall as they pass by, for example.   Attaching the play to the path rather than isolating it in its own space allows grown-ups to supervise the playground in a way that is casual, rather than intrusive, since the walkways are regularly in use.  And the concept is money and space-efficient as well; allowing bike-riding, running, and hopscotch to spill over onto walkways that would have been constructed anyway.

If you’re building a playground, think carefully about how it can be constructed in conjunction with path.  And if you’re building a path in any outdoor space, think about how it can be integrated with play!

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