Happy Birthday Aldo! Happy Birthday blog!

A bit belatedly because of my fiendish travel schedule, Happy Birthday to Aldo van Eyck (March 16) who would be 97 today, and to the blog (March 18), which is 7!  Longtime readers have heard the story before but I’ll repeat it for the newbies…I started this blog almost exactly on Aldo van Eyck’s birthday.  Only I didn’t know who he was then, or that he had built over 400 playgrounds in Amsterdam after World War II or that he had been the first architect to take playgrounds seriously as designed public space, and to see their potential for building community.  I just felt frustrated that the playgrounds I saw around me were so expensive, and so ugly, and so poorly designed as community spaces,  and that it was so hard to find information about any alternatives or about the history that had formed the playground.  I thought maybe if I posted the examples I had found online someone else might be looking for the same information.  It turned out many of you were.

I called the blog ‘Playscapes’ because I wanted playgrounds to be seen as fully designed landscapes for play.   Seven years ago, people often asked me what that meant.  Now, the word itself has come into wide use to simply signify a place for play that is somehow different that the equipment-based construction conjured up by the traditional word ‘playground’.  A ‘playscape’ may mean a natural space, or a avant-garde one, and could be indoors or out, but it is always a *place* that is thoughtfully, intentionally, and fully designed, not a collection of expensive equipment thoughtless plopped into the ground (which is now covered in safety surfacing).

Your birthday gift this year, dear readers, is the chance to download (for free!) a copy of Nils Norman’s wonderful book on London’s unique landscape of adventure playgrounds.  His compilation of their designs, history and architecture has been nearly unavailable since the small print run sold out years ago and many thanks to Nils (more on Nils’ play work tomorrow) and publishers Four Corners Books for generously making it freely available to inspire great play.  Aldo would be proud.    Hum happy birthday as you download your copy, either from the link below or from the sidebar, alongside gift downloads from past celebrations of Aldo’s and Playscapes‘ birthdays.

Architecture of Play by Nils Norman

Download "Architecture of Play"

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