Corvus Design Blog

December 1, 2010

The Mythical “Rocket”…

How many times have you heard people talk about the “rocket” they played in as a kid? In Anchorage, we have Mountainview Lions’ Park where we have a few of these ‘play museum’ pieces. When we meet with kids and adults, more often than not this park comes up in conversation… usually associated with an ensuing discussion of perceived risk versus hazard.

THE rocket…

We had a meeting yesterday with a middle school class, and the most mentioned wishlist item was the idea of tunneling and small connected spaces. The same playground has the very simple addition of concrete piping… the same thing we use for our utilities. I’m unsure why we don’t see these in new playgrounds? Do we?

Play can be soooo simple…

 A combination of galvanized pipe, pressure treated timber, and some kegs welded end to end? Many of us remember playing on these… and probably being hurt on them. But, I also trip and hurt myself without being on equipment.

Early generation composite equipment.

 As a tangent, this park is a successful park that is used by people to gather and celebrate. Unfortunately, we wind up taking photos during the day when we don’t have the luck of catching people there (murphy’s law).

Trust us… this park is used!

Two things come to mind from this:

  • We preserve buildings and landscapes for their historical significance. In each of our communities we have these play areas that are perhaps more ingrained into our souls than our buildings or other landscapes. EVERYONE reminisces about such things. While we need to respond to the fact that these structures may have a higher level of risk, and they should not be hazardous, how do we maintain them in our communities? Risk and hazard are a difficult discussion… and saying that “I played on this and I’m fine” can be a very hollow argument sometimes…
  • The danger of reminiscing is that we romanticize the past. If these are a fragment of OUR history, it might be fine that they are indeed history. There are home medicine kits out there that involve hooking electrodes up to your head to deliver “healthful and invigorating” voltages. We don’t do that anymore. For designers, the question is whether there are new and better ways to achieve the same level of play interaction so that we’re creating similar soulful connections for our youth and kids. Perhaps what was great about these items was that they were minimally programmed… providing a high level of potential for imagination. I think we’re getting back to that… I have hope.

For another interesting take on these older parks, check out this link to another blog: A Walk Down Memory Lane – To The Dangerous Playground