Jungle Gyms of the Past

Playgrounds have lost a sense of imagination since the lawyers got involved, resulting in boredom and lack of use (plus their style can be best described as a pastiche mixed together by a committee). There is a burgeoning renaissance of high-design returning to playgrounds (such as recent parks by Van Valkenburg in NYC or the ‘Rollercoaster Walkway’ in Germany – though these seem more for adults than kids).

Jungle Gyms date back to 1923 and were a feature of progressive k-12 education. Now most risky play activities has been regulated out of existence for younger children – so there is a documented loss of self-assurance and an increased fear of heights. Risky play is essential for development per  Dr. Sandseter:

  • exploring heights,
  • experiencing high speed,
  • handling dangerous tools,
  • being near dangerous elements (like water or fire),
  • rough-and-tumble play (like wrestling), and
  • wandering alone away from adult supervision.

“Climbing equipment needs to be high enough, or else it will be too boring in the long run,” Dr. Sandseter said. “Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years.” 

… “There is no clear evidence that playground safety measures have lowered the average risk on playgrounds,” said David Ball, a professor of risk management at Middlesex University in London. He noted that the risk of some injuries, like long fractures of the arm, actually increased after the introduction of softer surfaces on playgrounds in Britain and Australia.

“This sounds counterintuitive, but it shouldn’t, because it is a common phenomenon,” Dr. Ball said. “If children and parents believe they are in an environment which is safer than it actually is, they will take more risks. An argument against softer surfacing is that children think it is safe, but because they don’t understand its properties, they overrate its performance.” – nytimes

As the father of a 3 1/2 y.o., I wish he could experience the playgrounds of the ’70s that formed the core of my childhood. I’m willing to trade a few bumps, bruises, and perhaps a broken bone or two to help build his character and physical development – especially since most of these play structures required imagination to use.  The rest of this post is a few of the cool play structures worthy of celebration and having in your neighborhood!

Swiss cheese


OH Newton Falls - Playground

[anybody know who designed these pre-cast concrete pieces?]

geometric

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UMN MLA program info session at Cal Poly

I’m pleased to share that my friend and former colleague, Prof. Kristine Miller PhD (director of graduate studies in landscape architecture at UMN) will be visiting Cal Poly Pomona next week.  Rumor has it that there will be pizza.  Folks who are not affiliated with Cal Poly are invited to attend too.

Call for Jurors & Guests – Winter 2012

For my upcoming 4th year BSLA studio at Cal Poly Pomona, Sublime Infrastructures: Sylmar, I’m seeking Los Angeles based documentary filmmakers (directors, editors, sound folks, cinematographers) and landscape architects with an interest in the city, infrastructure, sustainability, tactical urbanism, and the sublime to be class guests.  Guests will either serve as jurors or assist the students in producing videos that integrate their designs and analysis drawings with footage of the city.

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Bike Pasture Update

Just got word that the Bike Pasture Project lead by Ms. Emily Lowery and Elizabeth Turner got $15k from the Minnesota Student Association! Can’t wait to see it built!

More info:

http://bikepasture.tumblr.com/

http://www.missemilylowery.com/2265536/BIKE-PASTURE

http://zeropluscampus.umn.edu/

Book Review – SOAK: Mumbia in an Estuary by Anu Mathur and Dilip Da Cunha

[Originally published in Landscape Journal 30:2 (PDF) – this is my original manuscript.  The blog post includes additional links and photos.]

SOAK: Mumbai in an Estuary by Anuradha Mathur / Dilip da Cunha. Trapeze [Ram Sinam], Bangalore, Book & Exhibition Design. 2009. New Delhi: Rupa & Co. 216 pages (including: front/back piece, Note from the Director of NGMA, Foreword by Arjun Appadurai & Carol Breckenridge, Preface, Epilogue, Glossary, Image Lexicon, Notes, Author Biography). Color and black-and-white illustrations and photographs. Book Size: 9.5×11 inches. $125 [$195], hardcover. ISBN 9788129114801

By Barry Lehrman

SOAK: Mumbai in an Estuary by Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha is a beguiling book that advances the leadership of landscape architecture in redefining our cities.  Moving between serious scholarship about the cartographic history of India, to creating an alternative mapping of Mumbai using sections and photographs, and concluding with proposing twelve design ‘initiations’ (08) that reintroduce the ability of the landscape to soak up the monsoon – the book expands our understanding of place-making.  The tension between applying scholarship to the design process is the reoccurring theme of their previous works, Mississippi Floods  (2001) and Deccan Traverses: The Making of Bangalore’s Terrain (2006), and their practice as landscape architects and educators.  With Soak, Mathur and da Cunha’s inquiry into iterative drawing has fully matured and engages in a larger cultural dialog (though perhaps a smaller terrain) then their previous works.

Soak emerged from an exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi that was developed in response to the 2005 monsoon floods in Mumbai caused by almost a meter of precipitation falling in just one day.  The book’s thesis is that artificial delineation of land from water is impossible to maintain in the territory of the monsoon and requires a new approach to place-making that enables permeable boundaries between land and sea.

An estuary demands gradients not walls, fluid occupations not defined by land use, negotiated moments not hard edges. In short it demands the accommodation of the sea not the war against it…’ (04)

Soak is an appreciation of an aqueous terrain. It encourages designs that hold monsoon waters rather than channel them out to sea; that work with gradient of an estuary; that accommodate uncertainty through resilience, not overcome it with prediction.’ (09)

Historically, rainwater from the monsoon was captured on all available surfaces for use during the dry season, versus the engineered 20th century system of storm drains and sea walls that seek to move precipitation out to sea as quickly as possible and to prevent the tides from washing over former mudflats.  With the failure of the engineered system to handle the deluge of 2005, Mathur and da Cunha were invited to propose alternative landscape solutions that became the exhibition and the book.

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Z+ at AASHE

I’m heading to Pittsburgh tomorrow for Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference to present a poster [pdf] [visit us at board #121 in the expo hall Monday 4-6] for the Zero+ Campus Project and to support the fabulous Elizabeth Turner who will be presenting the student engagement aspects of the Z+ project [Wednesday, room 403 @8:20]. At the conference, I’m going to participate in the Sustainability Curriculum Convocation too. More posts to follow on the conference and Pittsburgh.

Gotta thank LA department at Cal Poly for enabling my trip, so I’m representing them too with some swag to recruit grad students and possible faculty.

Z+ AASHE poster

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