Riverside Park Playground (as it could have been), Isamu Noguchi, 1961-1964

If you’re in NYC getting ready to attend the MoMA symposium and thinking about playgrounds, don’t fail to combine it with a visit to the Isamu Noguchi Museum.  His beautiful, bronze playground models are fortuitously on display at the moment, along with drawings from the famed collaboration with Louis Kahn to design one of the greatest might-have-beens in playground history:  Play Mountain at Riverside Park.

I spent a delightful afternoon there today, having deeply geeky conversations with the museum’s staff  (watch for Noguchi Tuesdays, in conversation with the museum, on the blog in the coming year!) and seeing in person what I had seen so many times in photos. I guess I had always assumed that the models were just darkly painted plaster, because, really–who casts their models in bronze?

It’s a measure of how close they were to Noguchi’s heart, because he didn’t do that for all of his models, just those that were truly special.  And he had been thinking about sculpting landforms for play since a visionary moment in 1933, way before something called ‘land art’ appeared on the scene.

All the topography we’re finally seeing enter the playground space, all the playgrounds-should-not-be-flat, it all started with Noguchi.

It was thirty years before he had even the chance to realize his vision, and though it never came to pass what is left are these models:  stunning in their own right, required viewing for all playground makers that aspire to great things, bronze memories of playscapes that should-have-been.

Go see them.

 

Leave a Reply