More about Playground Ruins

In continuing to think about ruins on playgrounds I came across this delightful example in Kastryčnicki, Svietlahorsk, Belarus, as photographed by Arseny Khakhalin (no info on designer or date; help if you can!).  Ruins as imaginative playspaces for children date to the Victorian period…the ‘Fairyland’ at Cannon Hall in Barnesley, UK, for example, was constructed in the late 19th Century by Sir Walter Spencer-Stanhope,  using stone fragments from local churches.

Though the Victorians didn’t promote the active play that we now see as essential on the playground, we can learn from them to keep playful ruins imaginative in form, but authentic in materials.  Like Cannon Hall’s Fairyland, Ottawa’s Strathcona’s Folly playscape uses cast-off architectural material from local buildings, set in sand to form a locally-contextualized playground that has been voted the city’s best.   Fayetteville Arkansas’ Wilson Castle Park, my personal favorite folly playscape, is more climbable and has a fantastic form, but still uses real stone.  No faux-substitute feels the same.   The Belarus example is made of real brick, and rises up out of the ground as a true ruin would, enabling it to ‘feel’ real to a child engaged in imaginative play.   Ruins that are false in both their form and their material, using for example faux stone over safety surfacing (as in the final photo, which I will leave nameless) fail to inspire in the same way.

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