Playgrounds are about so much more than swings and slides. No matter your age, there is something breathtaking about a playground that is designed for beauty as well as interaction. And, of course, the U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on artistic concepts of play. Around the world, top-level designers are building playgrounds that prime children to develop a closer connection with nature, a creative spirit, and an artistic eye. These are our top picks for the best of the best when it comes to playground artistry.
Schulberg Park – Wiesbaden, Germany
The Schulberg Park was recently updated to reflect some of the most novel design in the world, with great help from the artistic team at ANNABAU. The park, designed to reflect the rough pentagram shape of Weisbaden itself, features a large climbing structure that surrounds a central naturalistic area. Two green steel pipes are the backbone for this structure of netting, which children can climb up and over, and even features vertical play pads. It is a beautiful homage to the connection between art, play, and nature.
Alexander Kemp Playground – Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
When it comes to nature play, there is nothing more astounding than this collaboration between designer Mitch Ryerson and Goric. The Alexander Kemp Playground features natural wood in a variety of unique play structures, include an art-nouveau pirate ship, cubist whale, and an impressionist octopus water fountain. In addition, there is a full water and sand area as well as loose wooden blocks for free building. This island of play is a oasis of natural learning, design, and functionality that all can enjoy.
Belleville Park Playground – Paris, France
The Belleville Park Playground project is a perfect example of how designers, architects, and the community can work together to create something totally unique. The project’s designer BASE did hundreds of hours of workshopping with local children and families to find what the community wanted from the park. They told Arch Magazine, “Our work then consisted in synthesizing and interpreting the public’s expectations to provide a spatial response both truthful and original.
The completed “Vertical Park,” as it is known, is completely successful on both counts. The entire park is created from wood, and the design is modern enough that children perceive it as a ship, flying carpet, or forest – all at the same time. Built upon the base are a series of vertical structures with a wooden walkway between each section. The freedom of design lends itself to imaginative play, and the natural elements fit right in with the gorgeous local greenery.
The Forest of Cherry Blossoms at Moerenuma Park – Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
The gorgeous Moerenuma Park in Sapporo is one of Isamu Noguchi‘s most artistic park designs ever. From the 180-foot tall Mt. Moere to the beautiful steel and glass observatory, every vista in the park has been meticulously designed. One of the most artistically compelling areas is the playground, which is nestled in the midst of a cherry tree grove. The colored and stone geometric designs can be climbed on, under, and be interpreted in a variety of ways. It’s a picturesque and inventive design that lends itself to creative role playing.
Parc de la Villette – Paris, France
Designed by the illustrious Bernard Tschumi and Colin Fournier, this park is dedicated to art and architecture. The park features 10 unique garden areas – each with it’s own artistic style. The red “follies” structures are found throughout the park, one of the direct elements from Tshumi’s deconstructionist idealogy. In addition, the Garden of the Dragon is a architectural wonder of steel sculpture which is as eye-catching as it is a functional play area. The Bamboo Garden is also a noted element of the park, having been designed by Alexandre Chemetoff, the winner of the Grand Prix de l’urbanisme.
The Zorlu Center Playground – Beşiktaş, Istanbul, Turkey
Bright colors, sensory experiences, and natural elements make the Zorlu Center Playground one of the destination spots for visitors coming through Istanbul. A collaboration between Carve and WATG landscape architects, the park is magnetic for both art lovers and play enthusiasts alike. From the swirling yellows of the play nets to the dual sensory towers made of local wood, this park manages to bring artistry, motion, and innovation to the Turkish countryside.
Robert Skitek Water Playground – Tychy, Poland
This unique water park is attractive to both parents and children – mainly due to creative design by RS+. This park, at the edge of the Gostynia River, mimics the soft undulating water with a rounded water feature. Both colorful and unique, the park boasts nature-inspired water structures that manage to integrate post-modern lines. In addition, the lights are fitted with colored lenses, which turns the park into a water garden at night. Exotic wood benches surround the area, making it a perfect getaway at any time of day.
Terra Nova – Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
The goal of Terra Nova, according to the Mayor of Richmond, is to be, “A community gathering place where history and nature come together with modern-day programs that respect our heritage, while supporting our goals to be a sustainable, vibrant community.” As such, it is a wonderful combination of nature-play, artistic design, and historical West Coast references. The park, which opened in September of 2014, boasts a 30-foot tall treehouse, 100-foot zip line, and “log jam” designed to reflect real beach walking, is 100% natural – wood and rope, not plastic and steel. That’s just the way designers LArch, Handicapped Adventure Playground Association (HAPA) and WildPlay would have it.
Takino Suzuron Hillside National Government Park – Sopporo, Hokaido, Japan
The Takino Suzuron Hillside National Government Park is host to one of the most stunningly innovative play structures in the world – and not a stitch of it is made of wood, plastic, or metal. The unique Takino Rainbow Nest is the result of a collaboration between world-renowned Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam and architectural firm Interplay Design & Manufacturing, Inc. This structure is made of 100% crocheted fibers interwoven to create a spongy world of discovery that is as beautiful as it is inspiring.
Playa Vista Central Park – Los Angeles, California, USA
This award-winning park was a collaboration between Goric, The Office of James Burnett and Michael Maltzan Architecture. From the unique shell-shaped bandstand to the gorgeous rolling hills and artistic piping of the playground, this 8-acre beauty is a jewel in the crown of the bustling cityscape. The park also boasts “sand islands,” underground tunnels, and a variety of artistic play structures that inspire creative and nature-based play. And, the park is dotted with trees, giving the feeling of being on a rolling meadow instead of downtown Los Angeles.