Happy Birthday Aldo! Happy Birthday Blog!

Aldo van Eyck would have been 94 today, March 16, and this blog is 4.

This fortuitous alignment of dates wasn’t planned.

I didn’t even know who Aldo was when I started posting the few playgrounds I could find that weren’t out of a box, weren’t ‘kfc’ playgrounds (in the playground world kfc stands for ‘kit, fence and carpet’ and has nothing at all to do with Colonel Sanders), that aspired to create space for play, not just to install equipment.

For those of you just joining us (and there are alot of you this year!) I started the blog out of sheer frustration really–tasked with upgrading the small playground at my church, I couldn’t find anything well designed and reasonably priced–and the first fifty pages of a google search for ‘playground’ turned up the same boring sets of equipment.  Here green instead of red or with a swirly slide instead of a straight one, but kfc playgrounds all the same, and a local supplier told me the smallest set he could ‘recommend’ for a church was $25,000.  For something that came out of a box.

Good playground design was, to my surprise, really tough to find and I thought I’d post the ones I knew of just in case anyone else was interested.  But it was over a year of writing before I had more than 100 views a day, and since my *real* job is in science and I write this blog on nights and weekends (even now I’m in my laboratory, sitting in front of my electron microscope waiting on the ion beam to finish its work) I’m not sure why I kept going.

But I think it was Aldo.  I came across the book ‘Aldo van Eyck the Playgrounds and the City’ documenting the over 700 playgrounds he designed for the city of Amsterdam after World War II and it confirmed the vague feeling I had when I looked around at what passed for a playground–that it just wasn’t good enough.

Aldo, as a highly original thinker, artist, and architect had devoted himself, given his absolute best, all he knew of design and craft and placemaking, to these spaces for children in a devastated city.  I wanted to see that same attention, care, devotion to the child’s place and experience, in contemporary playgrounds.

I still do, and whatever I post here on Playscapes is because I see something of that devotion and care and craft.  I’m seeing a lot more of it now than I did four years ago!  And I hope what you see here will inspire you, my readers, to advocate better design, to demand better playgrounds, to make better playgrounds, yourself.

Most of the playgrounds you see here on Playscapes are large public installations.  But many of Aldo van Eyck’s installations were actually quite small and I’ve wanted for some time to fill in the lower end of the  scale.

SOOO…to celebrate Aldo’s birthday three of Playscapes’ very best friends–amazing architects and designers all–have designed small-scale play features, perfectly DIYable, that I’ll be making FREE for download in this, Aldo’s birthday week!

Look for the first one tomorrow, and the next on Monday.   I’m really excited to bring these to you.  Your readership (nearly 4000 a day now!) is a joy, and a surprise, and I’m grateful we’ve learned so much about playgrounds together.   Here’s to Aldo.


9 Responses to “Happy Birthday Aldo! Happy Birthday Blog!”

  1. snarl said:

    Congrats on this blog turning 4. I discovered it about a year ago (part of my job is tracking down public playgrounds in Scotland) and continually enjoy reading it. Thank you.

    March 17, 2012 at 11:17 pm

  2. Xavi M. said:

    Happy bearthday!
    I'm an interior-designer from Barcelona and I love reading this posts. There is a very good inspiration for my job.

    Continue like this! And sorry for my bad English

    March 17, 2012 at 6:55 pm

  3. Michael Swanepoel said:

    Happy Birthday! I've also found your blog in the last 12 months and really enjoy it. Congratulations.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:17 am

  4. Rethinking Childhood said:

    Happy birthday indeed. I share your enthusiasm for Aldo, and for that wonderful book. Here's what I learnt from it: the value of simple, non-prescriptive forms; the importance of places to sit (and/or balance on); the universal pleasure of the sandpit; the value of porous (or non-existent) boundaries; and most of all, the importance of location. Van Eyck's vision was to fill the city with places to play, and over his lifetime he oversaw the creation of hundreds of playgrounds. While most are gone, this vision of the playful city remains powerful. There's an elegant review of the Van Eyck book by my friend Ken Worpole here.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm

  5. Meagan said:

    Happy birthday! I love this blog, it's different form any other blog I follow (and I follow a lot). I don't know if I started reading here in the beginning, I can't even remember how I came across the blog, but I've been reading for at least a few years and I'm always excited to see a new post. While I'll probably never get around to it, I've been thinking of trying to create an open ndoor play space in my community, and so lately I've been looking back through the archives foe ideas. Keep up the good work!

    March 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm

  6. Mt Coot-tha Residents Group said:

    Can't wait! Our resident group has been campaigning for somewhere for the local children to play. See our trials, tribulations, successes and activities here:
    Your blog has been a great inspiration, thank you for your efforts!

    March 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

  7. megan/mason said:

    What an excellent idea! I can't wait to see what they've done. I am constantly looking for projects/ideas to add to the children's garden we're designing at work.

    March 16, 2012 at 9:33 am

  8. Perfect Harmony said:

    This was nice to read. 'Happy Birthday!' I'm one of the many that have joined on your reader list this year, and i'm glad I have.
    Interesting that you started out of frustration with your church needing a playground. We're dealing with something similar RIGHT now. The children have been limited, at my church, to the parking lot. And of course safety is of the utmost concern. So it was discussed as to whether we should look into purchasing one of the 'KFC' kits for the children. I've been really working to discourage this. We have VERY limited space… interesting that churches these days are designed to take as much space as possible for the building, leaving little to no space for the children that just need to let off a little steam.
    Thanks for you posts, I look forward to reading them!

    March 16, 2012 at 6:26 am

  9. Stephanie Ozenne said:

    Fantastic! I can hardly wait to see what's coming. I have three active boys and a pretty large backyard, but it's flat grass and some wonderful tall pines. I've been trying to figure out something more interesting for back there – sounds like help is on the way!

    Thank you for the inspiring blog – I really love reading it.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:52 am

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