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The state of play today

Following my previous post, which looked at a number of (sculptural and adventure) playgrounds  designed by architects and artists between 1930-80 in America who sought to create meaningful and creative spaces for children's play; I am now going to look at what is happening today.

It can be said, that we are beginning to witness a resurgence of interest in children's play. Perhaps this is because playgrounds today are competing for kids' time and losing. Nearly 25% of children aged 9-13 have no free time for physical activity, and a child is six times as likely to play a videogame as to ride a bike. Therefore, the playgrounds of tomoroow must offer something that even the most enticing virtual offerings cannot: real spaces that look at least as amazing as anything virtual (Manaugh, 2012).

Architects and designers are beginning to rise to this challenge, creating spaces that are complex, engaging and some even with technological gadgets to push.

Two types of approaches to playgrounds appear to have emerged:

Loose Parts: which allow the user to create their own play sculpture and can be transported from site to site.

Playscapes: which work on the thesis of combining play with landscape design - these playgrounds transform urban space into vibrant play spaces.

Loose Parts

Geometry Playground, The Exploratorium, San Francisco

In this traveling geometry exhibit and playspace, children roam through walls of torqued cubes, parabolic curves and wavy mirrors; play with stacked forms and glowing building blocks; and climb gyroids and a stellated rhombic dodecahedron [top]. They might even learn some math as they do.

Neos, Playworld Systems, Pennsylvania

NEOS introduces videogame elements— blinking lights, buttons, beepers and timers—into outdoor playgrounds. Players run, jump, and work together to chase down light as it bounces from panel to panel throughout the rubberized metal structure. The light- tag games are aerobically intense and last just a minute at most.

Snug Kit, Snug & Outdoor, London

Nine objects—mounds, bumps, walls, waves, noodles—form a playground-in-a-box. Children can spin the bumps, fit the waves together to form a slide, and use the walls (which are semicircular) to build tunnels or, flipped, as seesaws.

Imagination Playground, David Rockwell, US

David Rockwell's Imagination Playground with its lack of fixed equipment, and plethora of loose parts— motley blue foam components allow children to create their own environment. This kind of free play is essential, scientists now believe, in building childrens' brains and fostering independent thinking.


Mobius Climbers, Landscape Structures, Minnesota

A Möbius strip–like climbing wall made of a textured anodized aluminum sheet, studded with polyester resin (fake rock) handholds, forms a challenging landscape to explore. Therapists use the climbers to help children overcome sensory- processing disorders.

Schulberg, Annabau, Germany

To create an undulating climbing space that meanders through the trees, Annabau designers erected two green steel pipes with a net strung between. In some sections, traversing the structure can involve swinging from ropes with rotating plates.

Wall-Holla, Carve, Amsterdam

What happens to a jungle gym when it’s compressed? It turns into a maze, a fortress, a rock-climbing wall or a soccer goal. Sixty children can comfortably fit in and on Wall-holla, a structure 16 feet tall and 52 feet long.

BUGA playscape, Rainer Schmidt, Munich

Schmidt forwent traditional park fixtures like slides and jungle gyms in favor of a soft, rolling terrain of colorful Tartan turf and grassy hills laced with meandering pathways.

These are just a few recent examples of some inspiring playscapes that are popping up today - capturing the imaginations of children, whilst also adding vibrancy to public spaces.

For many more inspiring examples, visit playscapes.

Via Popular Science and Dwell.


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