Pierre Szekely’s Midcentury Modern Playgrounds

If you don’t know the play sculpture of Hungarian Pierre Szekely (one of Simon and Tom Bloor’s inspirations below), the definitive source is the comprehensive online catalogue assembled and maintained by Pierre Karinthy.  

It can difficult to navigate as it includes all of Szekely’s work (and he was prolific), but I have extracted the play constructs that I know of–all are located in France–and arranged them in chronological order to show the progression of his playground thoughts. It is particularly interesting to observe how he moves back and forth between round biomorphic forms and sharp, angular geometries…ending up with the monumental Lady of the Lake, the first permanent climbing wall in France, opened in 1975 but now quarantined as ‘unsafe’.

Karinthy lists, but has no photos of, play sculptures Pierre designed for disabled children at centers in Brest and Cambrai.  I’d love to see these; if you have any information on them, or indeed on any of Szekely’s other play works do get in touch; it’s a shame there has been no monograph of such interesting ideas.  All photos are from Karinthy’s site except where otherwise noted.

  • 1957 – Playground; model Petit-Clamart, Hauts de Seine; View of the Petit-Clamart playground via the charming blog archipostcard, which celebrates modern architecture as shown in vintage postcards
  • 1958 – City of Games; L’Hay les Roses, Val de Marne; source: archipostcard
  • 1958 – City of Games; L’Hay les Roses, Val de Marne; source: archipostcard
  • Contemporary view of L’Hay-les-Roses from the great astudejaoublie blog
  • Contemporary view of L’Hay-les-Roses from the great astudejaoublie blog
  • 1960 – Circus; Residence Manera, Vaucresson, Hauts de Seine
  • 1960 – Circus; Residence Manera, Vaucresson, Hauts de Seine
  • 1961 – Great form of games; Champagne sur Oise Oise (now destroyed)
  • 1961 – Well the birds; Champagne sur Oise Oise (now destroyed)
  • 1962 – Castle games; Verneuil sur Seine
  • 1962 – Castle games; Verneuil sur Seine
  • 1967 – Universe Games; Grenoble, Isere – restored in 2008
  • 1967 – Universe Games; Grenoble, Isere – restored in 2008
  • 1973 – The Extraterrestrial Massy; Massy, Essonnes
  • 1973 – The Extraterrestrial Massy; Massy, Essonnes
  • 1973 – The Extraterrestrial Massy; Massy, Essonnes
  • 1975 – The Lady of the Lake; Evry, Essonne
  • 1975 – The Lady of the Lake; Evry, Essonne [source]

 

4 Responses to “Pierre Szekely’s Midcentury Modern Playgrounds”

  1. Paige Johnson said:

    Indeed worthy of note! I didn’t know of the parkour connection. Thanks!

    July 29, 2015 at 10:06 am

  2. Mark said:

    Worthy of note: much of the early development of parkour took place on the Dame du Lac and it remains the mecca for parkour practitioners from all over the world.

    July 29, 2015 at 5:01 am

  3. arcady said:

    Thanks william…I saw this but didn't have time to do a translation. Any chance you'd like to provide one? 🙂

    July 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm

  4. William Gleeson said:

    Here is an article by Pierre Szekely from May 1959 in which he talks about the genesis of the Petit Clamart project, using the Stockholm model of playgrounds (sculptures for children and no scolding guardian).

    http://j.p.karinthi.free.fr/5701article.htm

    July 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm

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