Alfred Trachsel, Swiss playground hero

The Netherlands have Aldo van Eyck, but other countries have their playground heroes as well:  Lady Allen Hurtwood in England,Theodor Sorenson in Denmark, Empress Frederick in Germany…and Switzerland has Alfred Trachsel, champion of the ‘Robi’ or Robinson Crusoe playground.

I’ve been hoping  to bring his 1959 book “Creative Playgrounds and Recreation Centers”  to you but have been unable to locate his heirs; if you know who they are please do get in touch!  For  now, there are still some copies available on amazon and etc., and you should get one while you can.

[I also want to take the opportunity to point you to an amazing site devoted to the history of children’s playgrounds: architekturfuerkinder by Gabriela Burkhalter.  Playscapes brings you as much history as I can, but Gaby’s site is devoted solely to the topic, and is comprehensive and well-informed.  Don’t miss it! ]

Trachsel’s approach to the playground is unique for being so utterly inclusive…he called his Robi sites “a playground for all age groups” and he meant it:  from babes in arms to the elderly, all gathered together in one play space.    Robinson Crusoe playgrounds are sometimes said to be synonymous with adventure playgrounds, but this isn’t historically accurate, according to  Trachsel and coauthor Alfred Ledermann’s own definitions.  They saw the classic self-built adventure playground concept as too limited, and wanted to add to it artistic, competitive, and team endeavors as well as social engagement for all ages.

Trachsel’s designs were of playground-as-community-centers, specifically embodying the idea of the ‘village tree of old’, and incorporating permanent buildings for communal activities.  This concept continued to influence public park design well into the 1970s, and community buildings alongside playgrounds are still often seen in Europe but less commonly here in the US.

Trachsel included ‘building areas’ ala the classic adventure playground, but also added hard surfaced areas for ball games, wading pools, villages of playhouses and swings for small children, and areas for theatrical and musical performances.  And check out those community chalkboards!

Alfred Trachsel was also the first person (near as I can tell anyway!) to make a play feature out of a natural tree trunk laying on its side in a sandpit, now a common element of the modern natural playscape.

Does your country have a playground hero?  I’d love to hear about them…leave me your ideas in the comments!


One Response to “Alfred Trachsel, Swiss playground hero”

  1. silvermum said:

    Prue Walsh

    April 09, 2012 at 10:33 pm

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