I’ve long admired this small-town playground by German landscape architect Stefan Laport for the lessons it holds for small playgrounds (backyards, schools, churches) everywhere.  It’s a simple arrangement of elements that can be adapted to a variety of sites, styles, and budgets.

1.  Start with a hill!   Playgrounds-should-not-be-flat, remember, and when in doubt start with a hill as the organizing feature of any playscape.  Make it as big as your site and budget allows; a bigger hill is also great for bikes and winter sports.

2.  Add different ways to go up and down the hill.  The Hornbach playground has an enticing set of large and small boulders that allow different routes, and also conveniently serve as benches on the lower part of the hill.  A child can also just scramble/bike/sled up and down the grassy sides, or creep up through the shrubberies.  Other options could be a stump scramble, or a rope-banister to pull up on hand-over-hand, or  a flying fox with which to descend.    The slide descent could also be varied according to the size and slope of the hill;  this same sort of arrangement would work wonderfully with a wide multi-user slide, for example.

3.  Make a feature on top of the hill.  To a small child, the hill is a big challenge and there should be something at the top worthy of the climb.  The house on the top of the Hornbach hill appropriately references the historic shapes and stoneworks of the monastery town.  But you can easily see how it could be replaced by a house with a completely different local reference  (like a log house, in certain American contexts), or by a far more contemporary design (an avant-garde playhouse that doesn’t necessarily even look like a house, or a playable sculpture), and could be more  or less expensive as budget dictates.

4.  Spill sand at the bottom of the hill.    The playground started in the sandpit, and sand both honors this history and the fact that sand and loose parts play are still essential on the playground.  The sandpit could also have boulders and stumps, or a water feature, or a small balance beam,  or any number of other features, and can be larger or smaller as necessary, but should always have loose parts available!

This mini-formula for a playspace can be carried out at less expense and difficulty than a set of standardized equipment, but note that this design by no means excludes them completely; it integrates easily with the addition of things like swings for dynamic motion or a net climber for upper body development, or adventure and natural playground elements like a den-building area or a felled tree.    I”d love to see more small schools, day-care centers, and churches use this ‘house on a hill’  playscape as a model, adapting it for their needs and local context,  instead of defaulting to a catalogue purchase.

Posted in Natural Playgrounds, Play DIY

It has been hard to even think about posting happy-places-for-children lately.  But Paul at Metropolis Magazine has sent me a link to a lovely article there called ‘Modernists at Play‘.  They got in touch with the children of well-known mid-century designers seeking their memories of play; including Tess van Eyck daughter of our-hero-Aldo! She remembers:

“My dad started designing playgrounds in Amsterdam just after the Second World War. He did hundreds of them, but today there are just a precious few left. All those wonderful pieces of playground equipment have also been demolished. It’s terribly sad. The playgrounds dotted all over Amsterdam formed a kind of empowerment for the child, because as the city became bigger and the car was introduced, children were more or less pushed off the street. My dad thought that only when the city is covered in snow does it, for a short while, belong to the child again. When the snow disappears, the kids have to go back indoors or they have to be taken by their mothers to a playground, and most tend to be enclosed and controlled. My dad’s playgrounds encouraged children to discover shapes, forms, proportions, and distances, and develop their imaginations on their own terms. Wherever you were in the playground, you were never on the edge, but always surrounded by something. Either you were in the sandpit or you were climbing or hanging upside down, jumping on something, or going from one place to the other. There was a whole sequence of games you played with other kids on the way, sometimes via the jumping stones or somersault bars.”

And this from Ben Dattner, son of Richard:

“By the time I was born in 1969, my dad had already designed playgrounds like the Adventure Playground in Central Park. My sister and I felt a unique sense of ownership and pride in those playgrounds. He actually took a psychological approach to playground design. One of his innovations was to have double slides, because he had observed kids at playgrounds, and he found that when there was only one slide, there might be a kid up there, hesitating, not ready, fearful, and the other kids might be behind him saying, “Come on, go!” So my dad designed this double slide, so that one kid could take his or her sweet time and build up their courage without interrupting the flow of the rest of the kids.”

Visit Metropolis for more memories and photos of Modernists at Play, including the towering playhouse Hugh Hardy built for his daughter and her friends – image 2, above.

[image 1: Dijkstraat Playground, Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchief, Dienst Ruimtelijke Ordening/courtesy MoMA and via Metropolis Magazine. image 2 by Norman McGrath, via Metropolis Magazine. image 3: Richard Dattner]

 

Posted in Mid-Century Modern

Playscapes correspondent applicant Sarah Carrier sent this project to me amongst the things she is interested in corresponding about, and I just couldn’t wait to share it!

Stockholm-based VisionDivision was commissioned to build a concessions stand by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for the 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, a project that was realized in a beautiful and playful way–and almost entirely from a single tree. They called it Chop Stick.

Basing their design on “the universal notion that you need to sacrifice something in order to make something new. Every product is a compound of different pieces of nature…” they selected a 100-foot yellow poplar tree, the state tree of Indiana.  “Our goal was to make the best out of this specific poplar tree, from taking it down and through the whole process of transforming it into a useful building that is now part of one of the finest art parks in the United States. As the project proceeded, we continued to be surprised by all of the marvelous features that where revealed in refining a tree into a building; both in the level of craftsmanship and knowledge of woodworkers and arborists, and also of the tree itself.”

The first step was simply to suspend the tree as a great horizontal beam for the new structure.  Bark was removed and fashioned into shingles, and also into lanterns for illuminating the structure at night.  Pieces of wood were carefully extracted from the suspended tree and used for each of the design components:  the stand itself, the structural supports, pillars and studs, the swings, the chairs and the tables.  Pressed leaves and flowers were used to ornament the front glass of the kiosk, and yellow poplar syrup was even made from the bark, “thus meaning that you could
actually eat a part of the building.”

This project should remind us that making innovative play spaces requires a commitment far greater than a one-day installation of pre-fabricated components.  Listen to what VisionDivision says about the process, which sounds itself like a piece of performance art:

“The delicate balance act of the risk of weakening the hovering tree with taking cuts from it versus having to have a certain amount of wood to stabilize and construct the kiosk and carrying the load from the tree itself was very challenging.  Many days was spent with the structural engineer trying different types of cuts in a computer model to optimize the structure. To be able to fit all pieces that needed to be taken from the tree into the actual cuts we needed to make drawings for every single piece taken from the tree.

We also needed to optimize the kiosk both in size and in its constructions since it would take a lot of weight from the hovering trunk. The kiosk got a truss frame construction with two larger pieces of wood that are right under the tree. Using the schematics from our engineers force diagram program, we concluded that the wall closer to the end of the tree was taking more load, thus we sized up the two larger pieces of wood in that specific wall. All these alterations really just made the project more beautiful since the design became more refined in terms of more balanced proportions.”

Some might say that such attention is a waste of time and money, but if this was going up in my community I’d stop by every day to see the hovering tree and the careful extraction of its wood.  Imagine the community commitment to the space that could be developed through the performativity of the build.  Similarly, realizing  the Woods of Net by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam (the most popular ever post here at Playscapes and now receiving well-deserved and overdue worldwide acclaim)  required a devotion to the invisible structural engineering that make her pieces possible…architectural (Tezuka Architects) and engineering (TIS and Partners) collaborators are an integral part of that design’s success, which was three years in the making.

Chop Stick fortunately wasn’t quite so long to completion, but I do wish they had credited their structural engineers…I couldn’t find them listed at VisionDivision, which is the source of the photos and quotes in this post.

 

Posted in Natural Playgrounds

This compact playscape in San Francisco’s historic Presidio manages to tick alot of boxes in a small space:  rolling topography with circuitous paths, a circular meeting space for outdoor class, an inspiring play house, natural elements, appropriate plantings and loose parts play via the creative use of cardboard tubing!  Plus an appropriate use of equipment.  And all within a strong design framework for the space, which so many school playgrounds lack.  Admirably done by surface design. 

“…the landscape architect designed play features to support the Reggio Emilia approach and to recall bay area landscapes: the “beach” sand pit; the play “forest;” a grassy “Headland” mound; and a giant “telephone,” constructed from a large remnant drainage pipe. Carved out from the center of the Headlands, the designers created a room of rammed earth, recalling the forms of historic defense bunkers found at the water’s edge of the Presidio. Tree cookie pavers, cut from fallen Eucalyptus trees in the Presidio provide students to create their own games and to create paths through the school yard.  Material selection and planting for the project was informed by the educational objectives of the playground and by the planting and preservation guidelines of the Presidio Trust. Plants are drought-tolerant and native and materials are natural, biodegradable or reclaimed.”

[found at architypesource:   photos from surface design.]

Posted in Natural Playgrounds, Play DIY

Designer Tory Roff sent me his inspirational ‘spin shanty’ project, inspired by that childhood play classic, the Sit-n-Spin! Here is his team’s proposal for the art shanty projectsthat occur on a frozen Medicine Lake lake each winter:

“This winter, we want to engage visitors to Medicine Lake in the most universal form of interpersonal interaction… play. We are making a giant sit-and-spin shanty reminiscent of one of our favorite childhood toys. We expect to see teams of users both known and unknown to each other entering the shanty and collectively spin themselves and the shanty about a central table while generating heat through activity. Users will need to communicate and physically work together to get the shanty moving. We also hope that they will laugh and experiment with how to interact with the structure and each other. Movement and light will create the principle aesthetic both inside and out. From the inside, users will experience daylight streaming in along moving arcs of the spinning spiral. From the outside onlookers will see a spiral mimicking the screw-action of an ice auger. “

Tory and compatriots Bridget Beck, Erick Briden, Samuel Warren, and Dan Isaacs used stained plywood, 5000 staples and 3 gallons of glue over a steel base and heavy duty bearings to make the spinnable artwork, designed to “engage visitors in new ideas of how we can use art in unregulated/ temporary public space to reengage the public with a question of what art can be. For us, the art was about stuffing kids and their adults into a visually and functionally unexpected space and letting them work together to spin themselves, and the shanty as a whole, around an anchored center table. The shanty will spin as fast as users can get it going. Adults usually last about a dozen turns. Kids will usually go as long as absolutely possible and they will laugh and reinvent its uses the entire time…and the table is chalkboard for making up your own games.”

Delightful!

 

Posted in Contemporary Design

Kulturinsel Einsiedel says that “we build worlds as fantastic as the ones on the computer…that you can experience with ALL your senses!”  And I think that’s important.  Because in all the finger-waggling about childhood obesity it’s time that we acknowledged that the places we’ve been making for outdoor play actually aren’t all that compelling.  Downright boring, in the main.  And yet they’re up against the intense visual landscapes of television and video games.  Why are we surprised when the virtual reality wins?

One of the central ideas here at Playscapes is that play is better when the space for play is better.  And the grown-ups need to take responsibility for making better space.

Kulturinsel Einsiendel has no trouble competing with virtual reality. It’s an adventure playground/treehouse hotel in Neißeaue near Görlitz, Germany and the singular vision of Jürgen Bergmann, who is also the proprieter of “Artistic Wood Design Jürgen Bergmann”.  They make wooden play structures and sculptures for other locations as well, all of which seem to have leapt from the pages of a fantasy storybook.  They refer to themselves as ‘sculptors’ rather than playground makers. “Big, unusual things made of wood“, that is what we reply when people ask what we are doing. Our products are based on our own ideas and designs. Every piece is manufactured only once. Fantasy creature, tree-house, climbing frame castle, bench suite, playable sculpture, landscape art or complex play-areas: Every object is unique.”

And importantly, everything *seems* a bit dangerous, a bit risky, even though they comply with all European safety standards.

Look particularly at how rich in texture–both visual and tactile–their playscapes are.  Most of today’s playgrounds, on the other hand, have basically three textures:  slick metal, slightly rough plastic, slightly more rough solid surfacing/gravel/mulch.  Dull, dull, dull.

P.S.  It’s impossible to show as many pictures of Kulturinsel Einsiedel as it deserves…spend some time on google images and you’ll find many more!  I’ll show some more work from Jürgen Bergmann later in the week.

[photo 2 via wikimedia commons. photo 3 via wikimedia commons. photo 4: via spiegelonlinephoto 6 source. photos 1, 7 & 8 via dd4kids; see also their reviews of other German playgrounds]

Posted in Natural Playgrounds, Playable Sculpture

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]

 

Posted in Mid-Century Modern, Playgrounds by Artists

As Playscapes approaches 500 posts, I know that the amount of information here is getting unwieldy, especially for new visitors to the blog.  So I’m working with a great creative agency in my hometown to develop a better format, but I also plan to start writing some posts that consolidate past content around a theme, like this one on the topic of adding local context to playgrounds.  It was originally prepared for a guest post at ExternalWorks, and I thank editor Stephen Bird for suggesting the topic.

It is also the first in a series of articles that you may freely repost or republish, as long as you do so without changing the content in any way.  That means including the title and byline at the top of the article, and keeping all links intact. Please note that this is not true of the blog’s content in general, just of these specific posts that are so noted. Thanks in advance for respecting my work as well as that of the playground designers and content originators.  Here goes!

 

Play Local:  how to add local context to your playground
by Paige Johnson, author of  Playscapes

Playgrounds can be one of the worst offenders in the struggle to make public spaces locally relevant. Following a standard recipe of ‘kit, fence and carpet’ ensures that a play space could be in Milton Keynes or Madagascar, Sydney or South LA. Without context, who’s to tell?

Adding local context to a playground installation increases community commitment to the space, involves local providers, and is just plain more fun. Localised elements can form the basis for new playground installations, or be added to improve existing ones. Here, examples from my four years of writing about playgrounds at Playscapes illustrate strategies for localising the playground.

 

1.  Consider topography

Whenever possible, playgrounds should make the ground plane itself part of the play, preserving or reflecting local topographies.

Retaining an existing pile of rubble at a reclaimed industrial site in France allowed this playground by Agence TER to fit into a familiar local site AND be more exciting by hanging off its steep side.

Topographies can be simpler constructions as well: this spiral mound in London, made of turf by Mortar and Pestle Studio, recalls similar Elizabethan garden features.

The steep facets of a Parisian playground by BASE landscape architects were inspired by the topography in a photo of a local ‘found’ playscape by Will Ronis.

 

2.  Use local materials creatively

Everyone has heard about the use of stones and stumps to make a ‘natural playground’. But it takes some additional thoughtfulness to turn ‘natural’ into ‘local’. Robert Tully of Colorado used wood and stone to make a play sculpture modelled on Native American trade beads, and added subtle carving on a sandpit’s cluster of boulders to suggest local turtle species.

Australian artist Fiona Foley used native seed pods for a playground in Sydney designed by Urban Art Projects; not literally but as inspiration for the forms of playground features for the under-7 set.

Vintage playgrounds in Singapore once utilised small mosaic tiles as a unique surface treatment. New Singapore playgrounds should look for modern ways to continue this local tradition.

 

3.  Look around for history

The pentagonal shape of the continuous playground climber by Annabau reflects the shape of the medieval city of Wiesbaden. Its pole and net construction dips and swoops strategically to provide sightlines to city monuments so that the playscape joins the cityscape.

At the Tower Playground, Danish playground makers Monstrum took the incorporation of local monuments one step further by making a playground entirely composed of roofs from the city of Copenhagen; fulfilling any child’s fantasy of rooftop explorations.

Sometimes looking around for history means retaining beloved features within a new scheme. Spanish firm Urbanarbolismo inexpensively rehabbed an existing playground by painting all of the features from swings to streetlamps in eye-popping orange, coordinated with new safety surfacing.

And then they planted the site by engaging the local community in a ‘Green Battle’ in which 200 people threw seed-containing mud balls at each other until the battlefield/site (and themselves) were completely covered. The seeds included a grass to green the space quickly and native species such as thyme and heather to add permanent color and aroma to the playscape.

It doesn’t get more local than residents throwing mud on each other to make a great new playground!

No public space should be so generic that it can be duplicated half a world away. Combining topography, local materials, and a sense of history help make any playground a unique site for community pride; deeply attached to its local context and sure of its place.

 

Posted in Contemporary Design, Resources

Temporary installations, like the Fairy Houses and Forts exhibition at Powell Gardens in Kansas City, running from May 19 til October 7, are a great opportunity to explore new interpretations of old classics like the playhouse.
The Light Wings Pavilion by DA+UD is constructed of otherwise unusable 2×4 drops, a common waste product of any construction site, to make a larger structure reminiscent of Thoughtbarn’s Playhive.  Cut-outs in the roof and walls cast illuminated fairy wings into the space; children can interact with the light, imagining themselves with their own fairy wings.

Denise DiPiazzo of Red Trike Studios built a icy cool house bisected by a tunnel.

Kelly Cook and George Berry created a Fairy Outpost, using many found and natural materials.  I love the addition of community chalkboards!

LaMair Design Studio, Inc. built a pyramid from recycled wood, peeled log poles and translucent plastic “jewels” that filter soft light into the interior.

And Norwegian Wood built a fort that hides in plain sight…from mirrored safety glass.  The top of its tower has a giant periscope for viewing the treescape, and there are small holes in the glass for spy viewing.

[All photos of these great projects are via the Powell Gardens website; I couldn’t find website information for the project designers.  If you have them, please let me know!  First found at the Architect’s Newspaper blog.]

 

Posted in Contemporary Design

The Netherlands have Aldo van Eyck, but other countries have their playground heroes as well:  Lady Allen Hurtwood in England,Theodor Sorenson in Denmark, Empress Frederick in Germany…and Switzerland has Alfred Trachsel, champion of the ‘Robi’ or Robinson Crusoe playground.

I’ve been hoping  to bring his 1959 book “Creative Playgrounds and Recreation Centers”  to you but have been unable to locate his heirs; if you know who they are please do get in touch!  For  now, there are still some copies available on amazon and etc., and you should get one while you can.

[I also want to take the opportunity to point you to an amazing site devoted to the history of children’s playgrounds: architekturfuerkinder by Gabriela Burkhalter.  Playscapes brings you as much history as I can, but Gaby’s site is devoted solely to the topic, and is comprehensive and well-informed.  Don’t miss it! ]

Trachsel’s approach to the playground is unique for being so utterly inclusive…he called his Robi sites “a playground for all age groups” and he meant it:  from babes in arms to the elderly, all gathered together in one play space.    Robinson Crusoe playgrounds are sometimes said to be synonymous with adventure playgrounds, but this isn’t historically accurate, according to  Trachsel and coauthor Alfred Ledermann’s own definitions.  They saw the classic self-built adventure playground concept as too limited, and wanted to add to it artistic, competitive, and team endeavors as well as social engagement for all ages.

Trachsel’s designs were of playground-as-community-centers, specifically embodying the idea of the ‘village tree of old’, and incorporating permanent buildings for communal activities.  This concept continued to influence public park design well into the 1970s, and community buildings alongside playgrounds are still often seen in Europe but less commonly here in the US.

Trachsel included ‘building areas’ ala the classic adventure playground, but also added hard surfaced areas for ball games, wading pools, villages of playhouses and swings for small children, and areas for theatrical and musical performances.  And check out those community chalkboards!

Alfred Trachsel was also the first person (near as I can tell anyway!) to make a play feature out of a natural tree trunk laying on its side in a sandpit, now a common element of the modern natural playscape.

Does your country have a playground hero?  I’d love to hear about them…leave me your ideas in the comments!

 

Posted in Play Heroes, Play History

Austin, Texas based design studio thoughtbarn constructed an artful playhouse based on a beehive for a wildfire benefit in their city.  Their unique construction, which children can not only play in but also climb around on both inside and out, requires only 2x4s, a drill and a chopsaw (and some patience, but don’t all good things?)  And now full plans are available for download to Playscapes readers!

Licensed once again by a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution, so do please give credit and don’t attempt to make money off this, amazing as it is.  To help you on your way, there are additional photos of construction and installation at the thoughtbarn blog and the thoughtbarn flickr page.

Once again, all I ask is that you send me pics of your very own Playhives, and leave thank-yous for the great folks at thoughtbarn.  Think of the Playhive combined with the terrain and planting suggestions from space2place.…amazing.  Go out and make a playscape!

VIEW/DOWNLOAD PLAYHIVE BY THOUGHTBARN

 

Posted in Play DIY, Resources

If you’ve read the blog for long you know how much I like mirrors and lenses and optical effects (being, by training and inclination, a microscopist) and wish I saw them  more on the playground.  Danish firm MLRP have answered my wishes by covering a utilitarian pavilion next to the Tower Playground with funhouse mirrors of polished stainless steel sheets. They turn the previously bland, graffiti-covered structure into a place to explore perspective and reflection, and laugh at oneself!

“Instead of a typical closed gable facade, the mirrored gables creates a sympathetic transition between built and landscape and reflects the surrounding park, playground and activity. Windows and doors are integrated in the wood-clad facade behind facade shutters with varied bent mirror panel effects. At night the shutters are closed making the building anonymous. During the day the building opens up, attracting the children who enjoy seeing themselves transformed in all directions.

With simple means it has succeeded to transform an existing, sad and anonymous building to a unique and respectful installation in the newly renovated park. The roof and facade is clad with heat-modified sustainable wood and the gables and shutters are clad with mirror polished stainless steel. The Mirror House is a flexible space and restrooms, used by kindergarten classes.”

[Images by Laura Stamer, via MLRP.  See the mirror house project on the MLRP website for more details; and thanks to several readers who submitted this]

Posted in Contemporary Design

Its official name is Tårnlegepladsen / The Tower Playground, but I like the idea of a roof party…Denmark’s Monstrum has struck again, this time with a playground that takes the notable towers and rooftops of Copenhagen and brings them down to the ground, at kid-scale.  Delightful to anyone who has gazed at a tower, way up high, and wondered what it would be like to be up there.

There’s the roof of the stock exchange, and the city hall, the round tower, the dome of the Marble Church and the spiral tower of Our Savior’s.  A brilliant encapsulation of history, urban context, and imagination.

[All photos via Monstrum.  See the previous post on Monstrum’s playscapes here]

Posted in Contemporary Design

While we’re on the subject of interior playscapes:  Chicago-based Design Play Studio used a system of balls and loops to facilitate fort-building at an exhibit for the Chicago Children’s Museum in 2009.

This is a definite upgrade from the piles of books I used to hold down the sheets I draped over the couch and table as a child.

I point this out because one of the (many) things I’d like to see change about public playgrounds is the feeling that they are static and fixed.

Adding loose parts helps, but in a way they just serve to point out the inadequacy of what is already there; as in “we-just-spent-$50,000-on-a-playground-and-now-we-need-something-else???”

Why not plan to make the playground itself more adaptable, more fluid?  Why not make it easy to, say, drape the playground with fabric for forts?

UPDATE:  the good folks at the Chicago Children’s Museum have let me know that credit for this exhibit is also due to their in-house design team, who developed the ball and loop system by prototyping and testing it with museum visitors.

 

Posted in Contemporary Design

Talk about your green roofs…thanks to reader Carol for submitting the rooftop garden playscape of the Madison Children’s Museum in Madison Wisconsin.  With nary a traditional play structure in sight, Kubala Washatko Architects nonetheless created an eminently playable space with so much scope for exploration…and even chickens! This is a great example of how a space we might more traditionally consider a garden can be tweeked to become a playscape just by allowing say, the walls to be climb-able and the rocks to be step-able; the gazebo to be hide-able and the paths to be chase-able. Beautifully done.

Posted in Natural Playgrounds