architecture · behavior · community · creativity · environment · happiness · health · play · Social

Adults for playgrounds? Yes, please!

Grown-ups often need a little more persuasion to play than kids. (Photo credit: phalinn)

Earlier this week I brought up the importance of spaces for play in the city, and then yesterday mentioned a scientific study that used traceurs or people who practice parkour, a sport that basically makes any space into a play space. Unfortunately park playgrounds are often verboten to grown-ups without a kid companion. But often grown-ups like the play equipment, or similar play equipment, as much as kids do. Now, the cities of New York and Detroit are determining where and whether to put in playgrounds specifically for adults:

New York City is installing adult playgrounds for fitness-hungry grown-ups, touting the benefits of a grade-school workout. …the Big Apple parks are geared more toward workouts than whiling away the summer hours. There aren’t any slides or swings yet at these outdoor gyms.

The City of New York built its first adult playground in the Bronx’s Macomb Dam Park. The New York Times reports as many as 24 playplaces for grown-up kids could be installed by 2014.

In Europe, where playtime seems to be more a more capricious venture, adult playgrounds tempt grown-ups to get off the couch with detailed outdoor mazes, rock climbing walls, elephant slides and swimming canals.

Philip Lauri is the founder of Detroit Lives!, the media company with the mission of bringing creativity to the streets of Detroit (through an apparel line, murals and the “After The Factory” documentary). Detroit Lives! has recently started experimenting with making places in the city that inspire that same joie de vivre and fun — like the Georgia Street Community Collective’s remote-control racetrack for kids living in the nonprofit’s target neighborhood. He thinks adult playgrounds could be smart additions to neighborhoods who have already installed thriving community gardens.

“In those areas, we install an adult playground as an addendum to that successful effort, and use the kind of neighborhood engagement that the garden created to successfully initiate the adult playground,” Lauri wrote. “Then, both sites grow with participation and we get healthier people and neighborhoods. That’s a simplified progression, but still tangible enough to act upon quite quickly.”

Most people taking the Huffington Post poll are all for adult playgrounds.

In some ways I find it sad that we need to create playgrounds specifically for grown-ups. Don’t we teach our kids to share and cooperate? But, in many ways it makes sense: for one thing, adults are bigger and therefore need different sized equipment. They also tend to play rougher, more competitively, and less cooperatively than children (according to numerous studies I’ll find and source later), so keeping the two play groups separated is probably a safer idea. Finally, grown-ups also need to be given explicit permission to goof off, at least much more so than kids, so giving them a space devoted entirely to play will help them get creative and playful in their movement.

What kind of equipment would you want on an adult playground? Rope swings? Fireman’s pole? Leave your thoughts in the comments below?