The book American Playgrounds: Revitalizing Community Space, by writer and architectural historian Susan Solomon, opens with a scathing—and forcibly blunt—indictment of modern American playgrounds, to wit: “Existing American playgrounds are a disaster.” The picture Solomon paints in the introduction of her 276-page historical review and contemporary playground study is familiar to anyone who has seen the… Read more »

Once in a while, I’ll stumble on an elaborate new play structure that wakes me up to the possibilities of playgrounds. Like a Picasso in a room full of representational still lives, something daring in the design leaps out and demands attention. The Wallholla is one of those arresting structures. It stands nearly three stories… Read more »

It was against the backdrop of the volatile interwar years in Europe that celebrated Danish landscape architect, Carl Theodor Sørensen first conceived of the idea of skrammellegepladsers or, “junk playgrounds”. Observing children playing in junkyards and construction sites, he was struck by the notion that, through a child’s eyes, almost any object could become beautiful… Read more »

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What I remember about elementary school, before spelling bees or Tuesday chicken nuggets, before the school’s beloved art teacher or canine mascot, is the freedom of recess. Fields of blowing dandelion fuzz; daydreaming in the tire pit; playing Four Square. And perhaps, above all, the joy of the swings, the relished feeling of boundlessness wrapped… Read more »

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a stop along The 606 for a family night organized by the Trust for Public Land. The linear park, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates, is work of art in its own right, a nearly three-mile-long trail for bikers, runners, and walkers, lined with prairie… Read more »

The past decade has seen a boom in the creation of sculptural parks and public art installations—and the variety is striking. On a large scale, New York’s High Line, a repurposed railroad line 30 feet above Manhattan’s West Side between 10th and 11th Avenues, has featured temporary commissions by Sarah Sze, Kim Beck, Stephen Vitiello… Read more »

Public art plays a crucial role in shaping vibrant and sustainable communities. From mosaics and sculptures to performance art and interventions, public art gives voice to artists across disciplines, while beautifying public spaces and acting as an agent for social change and community revitalization. Cities such as San Francisco, Cambridge, and Chicago recognize the importance… Read more »

What You Need to Know Before Building a Rooftop Playground   When you imagine a playground you’ll commonly think of an open expanse of freshly cut green grass, shiny new playground equipment, and children laughing. That image, while still promising for individuals in rural areas, isn’t viable for many urban environments. Instead of frolicking in… Read more »

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 »