In this part of his interview, Alex shares what his ideal playground would be like.
TPP: Are all playgrounds created equal? Why or why not?
AS: The simple answer is ‘no’, not all playgrounds are created equal. There are a number of reasons associated with this – design, cost, community engagement and the physical location of the play space. It’s worthwhile noting that a higher cost does not necessarily mean a better playground just as a customized holistic design that takes into consideration the landscape and local community input does not necessarily mean a more elevated cost.
Many of the old Singapore playgrounds like the Toa Payoh Dragon Head are unique designs that speak to local culture. From my perspective here in Canada they look more engaging, more fun than the standard factory, out of the box solutions made of composite plastics and metals which are becoming so prevalent throughout the world.
Some Interesting Playgrounds All Over the World: Check these out!
AS: In Malmö, Sweden they have made a commitment to making themed playgrounds which I would love to get a chance to play on with my kids. They are non commercial, not made on an assembly line. And then of course there is the Danish company Monstrum who make the most fantastical playscapes. These are just a couple of examples of extraordinary playground design. Check out playscapes too if you’re not already familiar with it.
TPP: What would your dream playground be like?
AS: My dream playground would have some cultural reference to the place it was located so that when kids and parents saw it there would be an immediate connection, a recognition that it was of the place. At the same time, the dream playground would incorporate characteristics and cultural references to other parts of the world giving it a global flavour. I would like to see the equipment sourced from small to medium sized fabricators and craftspeople from a variety of countries selecting the best the world has to offer further internationalizing the look and feel. I would like to see equipment constructed of natural materials, primarily wood. For non-natural materials, recycled should be the norm where possible.
There would need to be a big natural element to the playground – a watercourse, climbing trees and a maze or path created out of giant rocks, a grassy hill to roll down and an area with natural shade and picnic tables where families could eat. There would be sand and dirt for digging and throughout the playscape, the ground surface would consist of natural grass covering.
There would be lots of benches in groups of 2 to 3 at a distance of 10 metres or so from the play areas to create a buffer, adult free zone for the kids and to give adults an opportunity to meet each other while the kids played. It would be an area where electronic toys for adults – with the exception of cameras – would be discouraged to keep the focus on the kids and not the latest interweb trends.
I would like there also to be an adventure playground component staffed with playworkers where kids can explore, experiment and create their own worlds. Adventure playgrounds are hugely popular in the UK, Germany, Denmark and a few other European jurisdictions but have not really been picked up in North America or other parts of the world.
I would like to see parents and kids from the area have some input through a public consultation on what the playground should look like. Designers and landscape architects should be on hand for this consultation to create some form, sketches, drawings from the discussions.
Another element I would like to see is a piece(s) of playable public art – a sculpture, a soundscape…
I would be looking for a hybrid playground that borrows and draws on the best the world has to offer in relation to design, equipment and art that approaches risk and safety in a balanced manner. It would be a playground so infused with challenge, adventure and fun that kids would dream about it when they nodded off to sleep.
TPP Sarah says:
I share Alex’s dream of seeing more natural elements in our playgrounds here in Singapore. And wouldn’t it just be terrific if we had adventure playgrounds as well. I have actually started drafting a proposal for these to be submitted to the relevant bodies for consideration. Do email me if you are interested in forming a working group to make such imagination-friendly, and adventure-inspiring play spaces a reality for children in Singapore.
Playable public art is something totally new to me, but sounds absolutely intriguing. You can be sure I shall be doing my own investigations and research.