Hexapod, Found!

One of the pieces Garret Eckbo installed in that first ‘playscape’ was the Hexapod, designed by Robert Winston for Creative Playthings.  It’s original prototype has been found at Jessica Smith’s Regla De Oro Gallery in Minneapolis!

Jessica is the granddaughter of Bernard Barenholtz, one of the partners in Creative Playthings, Inc during the glory days of playground sculpture  in the fifties and sixties.

Robert Winston was a jewelry designer, and the rounded organic forms of his hexapod have an obvious connection to the lost-wax sculptures he made with precious metals.  Think what playgrounds might look like if more play companies hired jewelry designers!
I’m so appreciative of Jessica sharing the images of her very own hexapod, as well as her mother Susie’s remembrances of the time period, here in its entirety as part of the oral history of that fascinating era.

“My name is Susie Smith. My father was Bernard Barenholtz. He and Frank Caplan were partners in Creative Playthings Inc. Creative Playthings didn’t come up with the idea of sculptured playgrounds, they were all over Scandinavia in the 1950’s. Creative Playthings did pick up the ball and run with it in this country.

There was a sculptured playground designed by Isamu Noguchi, in 1954 or 55, for the United Nations building. The playground was nixed by Robert Moses, the New York City Parks Commissioner. The model for that playground floated around the Creative Playthings showroom for years. As a result of the rejection of Noguchi’s playground, The Museum of Modern Art and Creative Playthings sponsored a sculptured playground competition-I don’t remember exactly what year it was. I think that the idea was that The Museum would come up with prize money and Creative Playthings would reproduce and market the winning pieces. I don’t know for sure whether the hexapod was one of the winners.

The Hexapod was designed by Bob (Robert) Winston, a jewelry maker/sculpture who lived in Scottsdale, Arizona. I don’t remember how they found him. He came to Creative Playthings in New York, I’m sure to discuss the production of the Hexapod. They must have figured out how to make a fiberglass prototype, because that is what is at my daughter’s Regla de Oro Gallery in Minneapolis. I think that this prototype too was in the Creative Playthings showroom at 5 University Place in New York City. It probably went from there to the Creative Playthings warehouse in Herndon, PA. When my parents moved to Princeton, NJ in 1957 the fiberglass hexapod took it’s place in our backyard. It moved to New Hampshire with my father in 1976 and to Minnesota to my backyard in 1990. We had it re-fiberglassed and last year we put it in the gallery.

Since I was a teenager when Creative Playthings established Play Sculpture as separate part, I only know that there were sculptured playgrounds in New York City and St. Louis. Those were the only cities that I went to in those days. The Hexapod and some of the other sculptures were made of steel and poured concrete. They were poured on the spot. The Hexapod was poured in two pieces-top and bottom.”

If you remember any other Hexapod locations, or have vintage photos, please share!


3 Responses to “Hexapod, Found!”

  1. Paige Johnson said:

    Great information! Thanks Mike!

    June 09, 2014 at 2:55 pm

  2. Mike G said:

    The Skyway neighborhood SE of Seattle appears to have a Hexapod on Renton Ave S. This thread calls it a “vertebra” and talks about moving it a short distance.
    I pinned its 2012 location on your “Playgrounds Worth Preserving” map.

    June 09, 2014 at 12:59 pm

  3. Mike G said:

    Details of the 1954 MoMA competition winners are here.
    I suppose Creative Playthings recruited Winston directly and used the competition to find other designers.

    April 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Leave a Reply