These Inventive Structures Promote Aesthetic Beauty and a Whole Lot of Fun
‘Form follows function,’ or so we are often told. Many follow this maxim to the letter. It seems on its surface to always make sense. If you want a fast slide, you need a tall tower. If you want a whole playground, you need a tower, slide, swings, and a structure for children to safely climb. Just by reading these words you can likely picture this playground. It may even accurately describe the playground you played on as a child. The consistency is reassuring, but its execution can leave a lot to be desired.
The following playgrounds and playscapes do much more than follow the standard format for creating a play area. They give equal weight to the beauty that emerges when faithfully pursing an artistic vision. These structural playgrounds replace consistency with novelty, and in doing so they invite the minds of young and old alike to reimagine what might be possible. At their best, playgrounds invoke a sense of wonderment and the desire to explore and expand physical and mental horizons. What follows is a collection of 10 playgrounds from around the world which achieve exactly that.
10. Forest Loops
Created by the Suppose Design Office, this playground is meant to represent the idea of growth in nature. When left unattended, a natural forest expands itself at every moment of every day, and can be considered neither complete or incomplete. In much the same way, our own imaginations are invited to continuously grow and expand as this whimsical structure is explored.
9. Parque Gulliver
Climb up a knee, a hand, a leg, a hair; slide down the jacket or belt; grab a seat around the lapel; or a quick snack from inside the hat; clearly this inspired play area holds many outsized opportunities for fun. Invoking the classic tale of Gulliver’s Travels, this structural landmark attracts young and old to the very heart of Valencia. The 15,000 square meter play area is itself surrounded by the Turia Gardens, making the entire area a destination for residents and visitors alike.
8. Pod Playground
Much like an acorn holds a great tree, a small-sized playscape can inspire outsized fun. The National Arboretum plays host to this award winning sculptural playground designed to invoke a fantasy world of outsized scales set into a beautiful natural environment. The main acorn shaped elements link to giant seed pods set into the earth through exposed concrete paths with organic curves and multiple level changes. Eash aspect interweaves together to form fun-filled and challenging playscape for children of all ages.
7. The Wallholla Playground
Designed by the Dutch company Carve, this urban play structure reaches high into the sky and features slides, climbing walls, sliding poles, climbing nets, and ropes to encourage intense physical engagement within a small footprint. The inviting curves and gradual inclines are designed to accommodate up to 60 children at a time, turning a narrow space into a robust and fun-filled playground. Recognized for its inherent modular design that can be adjusted to accommodate different goals and environments, the Wallholla represents a sculptural playground that may soon be found in multiple locations.
6. Free Play’s Kids’ Park
Created by Free Play to encourage unstructured play, the multiple play-islands and maze-like structure of this covered play area inspires near endless iterations of fun. Unstructured play is considered to have multiple health and developmental benefits, and these playground sculptures are specifically designed to relieve the stress that can be created from academic and sports-related performance pressures. A thicket of nautical ropes invites children to climb swing and hide; a series of organically shaped suspended tubes offers space for climbing and nooks for socializing; swiss cheese-like cubes provide instant labyrinths to explore; all of which combine to allow children to choose the where and when of their next adventure.
5. Schulberg Playground
The artistically ambitious play sculpture overlooking the city center of Wiesbaden has proven to be extremely popular with young and old alike. The inventive climbing structure hovers over the ground as it weaves throughout an extended play area. Featuring multiple curves and levels to challenge and increase our physical and mental dexterity, this play sculpture promises hours of fun. Every age group and ability level is invited to climb and swing, or relax and rest, among the ropes to their absolute heart’s content.
4. Aspinwall Riverfront Playground
This fun-infused interpretation of a traditional tower and slide playground has already become an iconic symbol for Pittsburgh. As imagined by artist Tom Otterness and created for the Aspinwall Riverfront Park, the brass clad and clown shaped climbing tower and dual slides invokes smiles and laughter before a foot is set on the playground itself. Though at first glance the all-metal structure can seem uninviting during the hot summer months, site preparation included a nine-page shade analysis that ensured the nearby oak trees provide ample protection, keeping the sculpture appropriately cool. Technically considered a piece of public art, the sculpture is owned by The Grable Foundation and is on long-term loan to the park. A creative and well-deserved arrangement for this popular sculptural playground.
3. Land of Giants in Seoul Forest
The Seoul Forest can easily rival New York’s Central Park and London’s Hyde Park in both scope and overall value of the experience. It is separated into five segments – Culture and Arts Park, Eco Forest, Experiential Learning Park, March Plants Garden, and Hanggang Riverside Park. The climbing sculpture, called ‘land of giants’ by artist Lim Ok Sang can be found in the Culture and Arts Park. You follow a dense forest path and travel through a tunnel before emerging before the impressive climbing sculpture. Even among the many popular attractions throughout the Seoul Forest, this giant stands out, regularly attracting visitor young and old alike.
2. Kristine Slott Park
Designed by the Danish firm Monstrum, Kristine Slott Park features colorful giant animals, oversized insects, upside down houses, and imaginatively overgrown mushrooms and flowers. The playground sculpture is designed to encourage children of all ages and ability levels to actively play and create their own fairy tales and stories. the incredibly popular playground has proven to delight the imagination as it invites everyone to rethink the potential and possibilities inherent in our everyday surroundings.
1. National Park in Sapporo
The impressive textile structures created by artist Toshiko MacAdam’s has been featured before on Goric’s blog. Her most recognized work is the installation in the Takino Suzuran Hillside as part of the National Park in Sapporo. Enclosed within a timber dome built using traditional Japanese construction techniques, the colorful nylon netting was woven by hand and can easily withstand hours of play by hundreds of children and adults.