Thursday, November 8, 2012

RJSP - More Construction

Some more photos of the in progress construction of our playground in Russian Jack Springs Park.
The 'snow cat'

Raven Play Structure

Polar Bear Play Structure

Some photos from the day that the Anchorage Park Foundation announced the contest to name the polar bear. If you'd like to find out how your kids can enter, go to this link:

Snowy Polar Bear Play Structure

Announcing the "name the polar bear" contest

The fishing boat play structure... waiting for spring for completion of the playground.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Polar Bear Play Equipment - Sneak Peek

We are over the top proud of this piece of custom play equipment!! We've been working with Exerplay and Landscape Structures on this for a while. At the bottom of the post is the play equipment that will go with this. The head and paws will be on the large white structure.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Taking Winter Seriously

In a previous post (What Winter Does to Play) we showed the changes that a playground goes through in the winter when we have a lot of snow (Eccles Elementary School Playground - Cordova, Alaska). After these photos were taken, a slightly older area of the playground actually saw the roof collapse over a covered play area. It reinforces how subject we are to mother nature, but also the responsibilities we take when we design play areas. The photos are courtesy of Gary Max of Gametime.
Some scale on the amount of snow.

Roof collapse.

A Love for Play

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.

St. Kilda Adventure Playground - Melbourne, Australia

I lived in Australia in 1998, and while there was a teaching assistant for a landscape architectural design class at RMIT. One of the outings that we had was to the St. Kilda Adventure Playground. This was a great opportunity for me to see what community directed play could look like. As a descendant of the Adventure Playground tradition, it's a sweet example of how fun play can be for everyone if the community is engaged to the level that they take ownership and responsibility. Not only responsibility for the development and repair of the playground, but for their actions and the actions of their children. With fun comes risk.

I've scanned my slide collection, and these are one of the things I stumbled upon. A recent article on this playground made me want to put them up here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Best Playgrounds Ever" Photo Stream

Click on the image above to be taken to a photo stream of some pretty interesting play structures.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Universal Access - New Accessibility Requirements

March 15, 2012 marks an important day for playground design... new accessibility standards will come into effect.

In addition to general requirements for site design, this is the first time that specific requirements for play area design have been included within ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines, so it is important to be familiar with them if you are involved with play area design.

These are two sections specific to play design:

Chapter 2 - Section 40 relates to general scoping and technical requirements. Section 40 is specific to play areas. If you click on the link, it won't take you directly to this section. You will need to scroll down or click on the appropriate index links that come up.

Chapter 10 - Section 1008 relates to the specific requirements for accessible routes, transfer elements, etc...

If you are responsible for play design (i.e. a landscape architect who is stamping drawings), it is your responsibility to be familiar with these requirements to ensure that your play spaces meet code requirements.

Monday, January 30, 2012

What Winter Does to Playgrounds

We recently received some winter photos of a playground we designed for Eccles Elementary School in Cordova, Alaska (images from Gary Max of Gametime). This has been an extraordinary year for Cordova for the amount of snow they have received, and it gives new meaning to 'northern design'. Play structures develop new ways to be used, and snow becomes one of the best parts of the playground. They appear to be cutting the snow into chunks to remove it from the portion of the playground that is over the new school gym. What great building blocks!

The two photos to below show what the playground looks like when it doesn't have so much snow (images from Corey Wall of MRV Architects).
BEFORE the big snows... the roof of the new gym.
BEFORE the big snows.

NOW... the images AFTER the big snows:

Swings, a tilted sky-runner, and an exercise station
to the right. All mostly buried.
A close-up of the 'tilted sky-runner'... grounded.
This is where all of the chunks of snow are coming from...
the roof above the gym. See the photo at the top of this post
to see what this area normally looks like.
Spreading the chunks of snow from the roof out over the
playground. I hope someone sends us a photo of how the kids
used these when they discovered them on school day!
Shoveling the roof of a covered play area.
I wonder about the safety of moving the swing seat
up so high you could whack your head on the top bar.

February 29, 2012 update:
We received some more photos from Rochelle van den Broek in Cordova. As we suspected, the kids did get crafty with those snow blocks and created their own igloo.

Getting crafty with snow blocks... igloo style.