In 1947, when the structuralist architect Aldo van Eyck built his first playground in Amsterdam, Dutch cities were in a state of crisis. The city’s infrastructure lay ravaged by World War II, the birth rate was accelerating, and there was little available housing stock. At the time, most existing playgrounds were privately owned and accessible… Read more »

For many of us, the allure of a waterfront begins in childhood. We remember gazing out at the waves and brightly colored boats, the piers and jetties that stretch into the water. We carry with us a sense of the infinite, made visible in the vast, unfathomable distances of the sea (or, say, the Great… Read more »

Yesterday, while scrolling through some photos, I came across one that made me smile, a candid shot of my son and his newfound playmate scrambling over riding horse structures at Indian Boundary Park, a 13-acre park in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood named for an actual boundary line between the US government and the Pottawattomie Indians…. Read more »

In the summer of 1926, Elsie Reford, began transforming her fishing camp on the Metis River into a garden. Located 220 miles north-east of Quebec City, at 48.51º N. latitude, the gardens she created over the next thirty years were the northernmost in the eastern half of North America. Known to some as Les Jardins… Read more »

Shortly before they co-founded Copley Wolff Design Group, Lynn Wolff asked John Copley to describe his childhood. They were both teaching at Boston Architecture College at the time, and had a standing Tuesday meeting to discuss their classes and projects. Ms. Wolff’s question wasn’t that unusual. The surprise came, mid-sentence, as Copley was talking about… Read more »

To trace the origins of the iconic American shopping mall, one must travel all the way back to the mid-twentieth century. It was in 1956 that Southdale, the first enclosed shopping space in the United States, opened outside of Minneapolis. Over the next fifty years, roughly 1,500 similar structures were built across the country, and… Read more »

Any parent who has ever witnessed a child’s first steps knows what the glow of fresh independence looks like. It is a messy, non-linear process, as the new toddler begins teetering around, falling, and getting up again. As parents, it can be simultaneously splendid and terrifying to watch, and it is a practice they’ll have… Read more »

As a child on a small farm in southwestern Arkansas, Joe Frost played with his friends in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. He played war and chase, built dams in the stream behind his grade school, and piled on his classmates in a game called “Dog Pile.” He devoured library books, government  pamphlets, comics,… Read more »

The title of Jonathan Safran Foer’s second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, has absolutely nothing to do with playgrounds. But the phrase has stuck with me as an illustration of what it means to be a child, where at times the world can be overwhelming and, frankly, a bit scary. Playgrounds are intended as… Read more »

Old situation The former Staatsliedenbuurt is an early 20th-century layout of Amsterdam. In recent years this area has undergone an extensive urban renewal. Social houses are renovated and partly sold to stimulate diversity among the inhabitants. A lot of emphasis is put on upgrading the public space’s quality. Gentrification has started but not as rapidly… Read more »

Eight years ago, on a five-day cycling tour of Berlin, Michelle Mathis stumbled upon her first bonafide adventure playground. What she saw caught her off guard: along several hundred linear feet of boardwalk, children unaccompanied by parents were using hammers, hand saws, and pieces of scrap wood to build forts, some as high as twenty… Read more »