July 26, 2012
My grandfather was great at sitting down someplace and striking up a conversation with people that he didn’t know. I think it was easy for him, because he recognized that everyone had something interesting to say. I never saw myself as being able to do that, whether shy or just not having the tools. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gained some of that quality in that I love to hear from other people. No matter who you speak with, they will have something interesting to say, if only for the passion that they bring to it.
We’ve been working closely with Exerplay and Landscape Structures on the development of a partly customized playground in Anchorage, Alaska. From this coordination came the chance to meet Farrell Smith, the founder of Exerplay. From starting a chain of fish and chip stores (that had play equipment in them), to selling some play equipment during the early seventies play equipment renaissance, to even manufacturing some equipment at that time, to forming what is now Exerplay… it’s a good story of finding something that you like and following it to see where it goes. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to speak with Farrell if I didn’t also like this kind of work. That was a commonality for us.
I just put up photos of the St. Kilda Adventure Playground in a previous blog post. One of the things I remember from that was that it was inclusive of all ages. They provided places where parents could not only sit, but could interact with one another. In today’s world, I think we need places where people are given the opportunity to interact. What comes to mind is that this is easy to do through at least two things: our pets, and our children. Both things that we love greatly. This not only brings us to the same place (dog park or playground), but it provides us with a common interest. When playgrounds are incorporated into active areas with additional draws to bring people in, then you begin to expand and mix… engaging a whole community. A picnic shelter, a barbeque, a chess table, a soccer field…
|St. Kilda Adventure Playground – Interaction for All|
As children, we met new friends on the playground. That’s also where we as adults can meet and make new friends as well… at least if equipped with children. There are so many pressures on playgrounds for safety or “stranger danger” that not only do they become insular, but they also become unfriendly to people without children who are in the area. I know that as a landscape architect, I can feel pretty uncomfortable when I’m taking photos of playgrounds when I travel. The best photos have activity in them, but you feel kind of creepy doing that in today’s world.
Anyways… I think the point of this is that as a designer, we need to take so many factors into consideration when we develop playgrounds. A good playground goes beyond play, and straight into the heart of what is community. Our goal is to create a place that is special to the community, and is inviting for the community to take ownership of it. This might be summarized by us wanting to encourage people to interact who might never have the opportunity in the first place. A place where someone can not only listen to other people’s stories, but also tell their own.