Tuesday, January 25, 2011

One of the best blogs on play

We have a link to this blog in our links box to the right, but we'd like to remind that it's one of the best blogs we've found for collecting and showing the various forms the built environment of play can take.

A recent post on Puckelball is especially invigoration for us at the moment. Re-envisioning how we treat our playing fields and the form of 'play' they foster. I can't help but look at this and see how much fun it could be at all times of day, encouraging new games and interactions... perhaps especially in winter. This is the kind of landscape I used to love as a kid cross-country skiing... little hills to slide up and down.

Friday, January 14, 2011


In 2009, Peter Briggs of our office and a friend of his (Jonny Hayes) participated in a local arts event called FREEZE (click on this link to see the other amazing contributions to this event). They were tasked with creating an opportunity for kids to engage with winter art/sculpture. So... over the span of about a week, Peter and Jonny took a number of 4'x8'x2' blocks of virgin Fairbanks ice (same ice they use for their ice festival) and turned them into the mounting board for childrens' art.

We used a poem as our project blurb:
Come dabble in a paddle through the tropical ice!
Dare to enter this chilly crevasse,
with salmon, guppy, eel and bass…
Hop in for a swim in the twisty ice flow,
or at least a peek, or a dip of your toe…
Frolic with fellow new fishy fresh friends,
flippery things frozen from end to end…
Ice is nice in a cold winterscape,
Icequarium, Icequarium … we can’t wait!

The Construction 
Tilting up the blocks after routing the circles
Consulting with the Fairbanks Ice Gurus
Dramatic Chainsaw Use
Chisel Work
'glazing' the ice with a torch
Super clear ice!

The Artwork (bring on the kids)
Drawing on vellum

Icing the art into the wall
Some of the chilly creatures that the kids drew.

It's interesting in there...
Nightime Lightime
 We used an LED light system in the wall to illuminate it at night... it really came alive. (www.colorkinetics.com)

 Performing with the ice
As part of FREEZE, a performance group went around to the various installations and interacted with them.

 Nightime Video

The Melting

A few days after we finished constructing it, the weather warmed up. It did amazing things to the clarity of the ice, and as it (very slowly) melted, the art wall went through some great transformations.

 A bit about Peter and Jonny (project bios): 

Jonny Hayes

Jonny Hayes, since the age of neon, mohawks and rolled pant legs, has been ambitious to engage in everything winter. The second biggest engagement was the move to Alaska from snowy Buffalo, and since then all things have turned out pretty – cool. An admirer and manipulator of landscapes through the seasons is what Jonny most enjoys, and the challenges of understanding processes and developing useful skills is typically the first step. Participating in FREEZE is a celebration of the things Jonny enjoys most.

Peter Briggs

Peter Briggs, in previous incarnations in warmer climates has offered short courses to people less familiar with the science and application of snow (i.e. Physics of Snow 101 — Trajectory, Snow Chemistry 310 — Moisture and Compaction, and Snow Medicine 421 — Healing Effects of Snow Down the Back). As a northern landscape architect, developing all-season landscapes (including winter!) is key. As a northerner in general, Peter cherishes the opportunity to celebrate winter with humor, chilly fun and a special kind of art … FREEZE!

Friday, January 7, 2011

NY Times Article: Effort to Restore Children’s Play Gains Momentum

Good article. But, I can't help but feel something is tragically wrong if advice like "“Climb on the couch with your friends and pretend you are sailing on a ship to a distant land" actually needs to be said out loud. What has happened to culture if we need (re)training in order to (re)discover play? Or... maybe those kind of things are indeed going too far, and all we need is some space and time, and we'll all figure it our again on our own if we're not distracted by needing to try too hard. It's just that we need to provide the time and space in what is otherwise an (overly?) complicated world...

Click on the image below or this link for the article from the NY Times:

Unique Winter Games - Ditchball @ the University of Manitoba

I posted a photo of a game of Ditchball when I was talking about how Winnipeg embraces winter. I asked a (landscape architect) friend to fill me in more about it, so for those who are interested:

Please see this link (the very basics of Ditchball) that provides a basic description of ditchball.  Please note that as this is on the U of M website, it is the "official" rule book (well, as official as it gets).  Despite the rather simplistic description of “ Aggressive tackling [as] the primary strategy both on offense and defense”, the landscape architecture team that dominated the sport in the 1980’s did in fact assign players to positions and did have passing strategies to get the ball to the goalie.  Protective equipment was not worn in the first years of the game but it became a requirement during this period as the results of broken bones and concussions.
The only rule is that you have to pass the ball to your goalie.  While protective gear must be worn, no other equipment is allowed. (addition: we found some additional rules here: rules)
There are also a number of videos on YouTube: A Brief History of Ditchball (You will find links from this video to a number of other very informative videos)
CBC did a TV news piece on the game in the late 80’s when the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba officially opened the games. I am going to email a friend of mine to see if I can get a copy of the piece.  It was hilarious.
Doing an internet search for ditchball will also turn up some good links.
(addition: we found a facebook group with more photos and info: My Pain My Game: Ditchball)

If you choose to adopt this game in your community... be careful! =)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Proof of play...

Going through some stuff, we found a few journal entries from a Grade one workbook of ours... give a kid some crayons and paper, and things don't really change much. (and it brings back the memory of how unsatisfying the white crayon was on white paper, perhaps that explains the substitution of a more gratifying brown color for the snowman)