community · design · environment · Social

UW exhibit celebrates parks, public spaces reclaimed from unusual uses

A bit older news, but still interesting, and a great way to get into the unofficial summer season; from UW News:

Gas Works Park, Seattle WA

Thaisa Way, a UW associate professor of landscape architecture, and several of her design students have curated “Experimenting in Public Space,” on exhibit May 9 to June 24 at the American Institute of Architecture design gallery in downtown Seattle. The exhibit explores Gas Works and 11 subsequent parks and public spaces in a series of sketches, photographs and architectural renderings.

In 1962, a parcel at the northern tip of Lake Union was a toxic waste dump, the result of an industrial plant that turned coal to natural gas. By 1976, however, it was Gas Works Park, the result of a gutsy experiment in landscape architecture led by Richard Haag, a University of Washington emeritus professor of architecture.

Gas Works and subsequent projects established Seattle as one of the first American cities willing to recast industrial sites into places to celebrate.

“Gas Works was a radical move, especially since Rachel Carson’s book, ‘Silent Spring,’ had just been published, and people were alerted about environmental pollution,” Way said.

Haag convinced the city that not only could unusual and sometimes polluted land be reclaimed but that it should be. Instead of the wide, rolling vistas of trees and flowers created across the country by the Olmsted brothers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, Haag celebrated the city and all its right angles. The gas works boiler house eventually sheltered grills and picnic tables, and the gas compressor became a play barn, all with a water’s edge view of Lake Union and the downtown Seattle skyline.

Among the projects featured in the exhibit are Freeway Park, Waterworks Gardens and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Read more here.

I’m excited to see a celebration of open public park spaces, especially those reclaimed from formerly unappealing and otherwise unusable spaces. I find myself at Gas Works Park a lot in the summer, and love having so much green open space in the city I live in!

anthropology · children · community · creativity · design · environment · learning · Nature · play

Kids’ playground goes back to nature – Edmonton Journal

I love the fact that playgrounds are incorporating the stuff that kids love to play with the most – dirt, rocks, and sticks!

Children won’t find new monkey bars and bright plastic play structures at the upgraded Donnan Park.

Instead, the aging playground at 9105 80th Ave. will become Edmonton’s first “natural playground,” part of a growing trend in playground design.

Children in the redesigned Donnan Park will entertain themselves with such timehonoured playthings as rocks, sticks, sand and dirt. The overhauled space will feature a slide built into a hill, a sideways-growing tree, a boulder spiral, a hand pump to pour water into a small stream and plenty of plants, trees and greenery.

It will be “a beautiful garden that everyone plays in,” says Kory Baker-Henderson, co-chair of the neighbourhood committee that worked on the preliminary playground design with expertise from Ontario-based Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds.

“Around us there are already some typical playground structures, so we wanted to have something different that blends in with the (Mill Creek) ravine,” Baker-Henderson says.

“Studies have shown imaginative play is much more stimulated (in natural settings) and children actually will play longer and become much more involved than on a typical red, plastic slide structure. Their games will just get much more imaginative. There’s that connection with nature. We have plans for a community garden, so it’s a learning and teaching tool, too.”

The playground at Donnan Park currently has swings and a slide that will remain for now, but won’t be replaced, she says.

Read the full article.

architecture · behavior · community · environment · Nature · play

Exploring some of London’s most playful spaces and places

Interesting exploration of the playful spaces around London:

an example of a playground toured in London last fall.

I’m still buzzing after last weekend’s Open House play space tours. Why?

Simple: I saw some inspirational work, and had some immensely rewarding conversations.

We took a meandering and surprisingly green route across most of the NDC area to Radnor Street Gardens.
This is one of London’s best examples of a ‘playable space’ – in other
words, a space where offering opportunities for play is only one of the
jobs that has to be done. My work for the GLA
[pdf link] helped to embed this idea in London’s planning system. In my
view, it is fundamental to the success of public play facilities in
almost any urban area.

What struck me was how the programme combined park, amenity space and
play projects, along with streetscape and highways initiatives, so that
the whole far exceeded the sum of its parts. The ingredients we saw
included [*deep breath*]: new play spaces and toilet blocks in parks and
estates, new public squares from reclaimed street space and car parks, ‘home zone’-style
shared road surfaces, landscaped road closures, greening up an
adventure playground, estate-based allotment projects, cycle lanes,
shared use ball game areas, pushchair-friendly pavements, even (on one
estate) new refuse bin sheds with green roofs. Her approach to
engagement was revealing. Local people were closely involved at all
levels, right up to the NDC board. However, they were seen not simply as
‘stakeholders’ or ‘consumers’, but as people who needed to be inspired,
debated with, and (hopefully) won over.

Read more of Exploring some of London’s most playful spaces and places.

I think this is a great idea; just as we have garden tours, we should have playground tours! Areas that introduce parents and officials alike to playful, fun spaces to take their kids.

This blog actually has some great conversations about play and the need for children to get outside and play more.

via Exploring some of London’s most playful spaces and places.