About urban playgrounds

Urbanism magazine Metropolis featured an article about city recreational space interestingly entitled "The Politics of Play (by Linda Baker). It starts from the observation that "The playground is the McDonald’s of landscape design" since it is the same flat surface everywhere:

(picture taken by myself in Lyon, France)

Some excerpts I found relevant below. First some reasons about this low innovation:

Much of the design momentum originates in Denmark, Holland, and Germany, where children are increasingly viewed as an indicator group for successful urban planning. (...) “The whole space becomes a play element” (...) Over the past 15 years international play-safety guidelines have spawned a ubiquitous crop of red, yellow, and blue structures rooted in “impact-attenuating” surfaces. (...) Eliminating spontaneity and risk from children’s play not only discourages physical activity, critics claim, but deprives young people of the experiences they need to grow and develop as individuals.

But some people came up with interesting ideas:

At the Nature Playground, which opened in Valbyparken—Copenhagen’s largest park—several years ago, steep hills and felled branches share space with a sand-and-gravel pit and a village of woven willow huts and fences. There are wildflower meadows, a large snail-shaped mound with a spiral path, and five whimsical towers crafted from wood, metal, and Plexiglas (...) a ten-foot “mountain” fronted by a boulder climbing wall, a stream (or “leaping chasm”), and winding paths with fairy-tale-like arbors. “The play is not prescribed, so the kids have more opportunities to problem solve and use their imaginations,” says Leslie Fredette, a second-grade teacher.

This raises relevant questions about urbanism:

“We need not only new types of playgrounds but also an urban environment that makes it possible for children to participate in urban life,” Blinkert says. Freiburg’s next step is to reclaim the street as a safe place for children’s play, where kids can kick a ball, meet new people, or simply watch the world go by.

Why do I blog this? because I am interested in how space (and its infrastructures) shape people's behavior (ranging from physical to social or cognitive processes). There is a lot to think about here and this is very important questions lately addressed as "the architecture as the interface". This is then bound to my interest towards both urban computing and social science research.

Also to keep an eye on about this topic: PlayITSound, a danish company that work on how to enhance/improve playground to be more creative and playful. I don't know what Kompan (one the world’s largest manufacturers of playground equipment) thinks about that.