We recognize that playgrounds and both intelligent design and evolution support each other in the development of new ideas. We often find ways to reconcile form and function. Originally, playgrounds were developed by landscape architects who sought to create public spaces that would bring communities together. Artists took action to show their influence and in the process began to explore more creative forms of playgrounds.
So how did we get here? Today’s traditional “post and platform” design wasn’t always the norm.
By 1900, playgrounds appeared in major American cities and consisted of a sandbox and a cubist metal climbing machine known as the “high school”. In 1912, New York City decided that these gyms were unsafe and were removed from all parks. In the 1930s, landscape architects took a serious interest in playground design, and sculptor Isamu Noguchi introduced abstract concepts that helped enliven the modern playground.
After WWII, Baby Boom needed more 꽁머니. Most post-war city playgrounds were designed for shared use between schools and parks. During the fifties, however, playground designers split into two camps: the leisure movement (fitness) and the arts. The game was a structured event. The idea of the unstructured game had not yet settled. The development of security surfaces was slow at best. The playground was limited to sandbox, seesaw, slides and swings. In the 1950s, attention was paid to the “disabled”, ironically, the wounded of the Second World War and the arrival of Korean fighters on playgrounds with their children. Noguchi’s famous design from 1952 to the UN was rejected by Robert Moses and sparked heated debate. The design was revolutionary but not understood and never built.
In the 1960s, game components began to merge.
Compound structures were discovered, along with huge climbing structures made of wood and stone. The idea was to make playgrounds interesting and attract children to them, otherwise they would end up back on the streets – probably to no avail. Not all playgrounds were poles and platforms. The Adventure Playground in Central Park is a wonderful throwback to this transitional era where art and play came together. The water moves down long channels and collects in a basin where it flows – no standing water. There are sand, water and climbing structures. Every landscaper should make a pilgrimage to this historic park!
In the 1970s, we entered the age of litigation.
Suddenly, the cities of New York and Chicago found themselves caught up in multimillion-dollar damage schemes, and parks began to close. Property values plummeted if they wore playground equipment. Some NYC coops have closed. New York City eliminated the lashes and they were blacklisted. Insurance companies’ premiums were so high that some cities decided to insure themselves. In the 1980s, this fiasco began to wane as the CPSC created guidelines and the NPSI (National Institute for Playground Safety) created a certification program for playground designers. Safety-designed playgrounds have followed new recommendations or guidelines, and some states now require CPSC code.
Playgrounds are enhanced with creative climbers that encourage children to use different muscles. The slides had guards on the upper and high side walls. It has become safer in haste – it should. Overall, playgrounds were getting better and better, and in 2004 we had such a safe playground that it was hard to say “no way”. At the end of the day, our bones still break, but this often happens with children who fall 2-3 meters or stumble while running. Their bones are weaker and let’s face it, there was always a kid or two in class who tended to wear a cast. You can’t blame the playground
Isamu Noguchi is probably the father of Nature round. Their concept is used today: Bulk earth forms create hills, slopes, curves on which playground equipment can be placed. Research shows that when play equipment is placed in the natural environment around trees, plantings, embankments, and rocks, children use it more often and for longer. A playground that falls into a box or rectangle looks more corporate and less attractive. Even children seem to have an aesthetic sense and we designers realize this.
We designers have to keep up with all these developments because it is our job to know them. Sometimes we are the ones who bring up the subject to the producers and they listen to us. We may not get any credit, but we have a hand in shaping some of the things you see out there.