Friday, August 8, 2008

Curvy Playscapes

As I dug through some posts that I had saved for future uses from the great blog Playscapes, I was struck as well with the study from Treehugger, discussing the fact that near-sightedness (myopia) is a new side-effect of children not playing outside... From the article reference in The Hindustan Times: "...while playing outdoors seems to have a very real connection with a decrease in probabilities, time spent playing sports indoors did not help the situation. According to researcher Kathryn Rose, "The crucial factor was being outdoors. Time spent outdoors, as a protective factor, now appears to be the strongest environmental factor that has yet been documented.”

With that in mind, a few posts to offer some of the less-structured playscapes... starting with noted firm Stoss Landscape Urbanism - The Safezone Playground. Some commentary from Arcady at Playscapes: "Stoss refers to it as a reformulation of the pleasure ground; I find it a creation of the 'third nature', a concatenation of the man-made and the natural, in the best tradition of the Renaissance."

:: images via Playscapes

A very cool analogous project from Japan - again via Playscapes: "A brief but interesting slide show at the New York Times entitled 'Beyond the Swing Set' features the 'fog forest' of Tokyo's Showa Kinen park "which combines truncated pyramids with a 32-foot steel tube that emits artificial fog every 15 minutes. Atsushi Kitagawara Architects collaborated with the artist Fujiko Nakaya to create this mist-shrouded world, where the fog shifts and clears just as it does in real life."

:: image via Playscapes

Finally, Arcady posits the question of interactive art - asking "Anyone else want to see Maya Lin's Wavefield as a playground?" To which I respond, hell yeah!

:: images via Playscapes

Beyond the swing-set is a great concept... although we want the safety and structured liability of play structures - do they offer the same experiences that allow children to develop motor skills and imagination...? I know that society has changed to the degree where the level of monitoring my parents did (in the 1970s) would be impossible today - but is there a middle ground - removing sterility and providing for adventure - while ensuring the safety of kids? I think it's a not a question of whether - but how, we do this.

Instead of NOT designing playgrounds anymore, for whatever reason, perhaps we should get out of our own myopic view - and think about the quality of environments - and what they can lead to - for the children. Now that is far-sighted, in my opinion.

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