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Architects have been creating diverse environments for kids to explore since the first playground was built in 1859. However, due to a lack of funding and budget to maintain these facilities, many are to set close in the UK. Imaginative and creative settings are vital for child development. Playgrounds and recreational spaces are vital resources for towns and cities. We’ve rounded up our top five playground designs around the globe.
MonstroCity, St. Louis
Built from reclaimed materials and opened in 2002, MonstroCity is an interactive sculptural playground. It sits adjacent to the St. Louis City Museum and features two airplanes suspended in the air, as well as a fire engine. It’s designed for both children and adults, offering sky-high tunnels, spiral slides and ball pits. The whole site was founded and designed by Bob Cassilly. With the help of a team of skilled artisans, he brought to life this truly distinctive landmark - the materials were reclaimed from the streets of St. Louis itself.
Sunbird Park, Vail - Colorado
Designed by Colorado’s Tres Birds Workshop, the Sunbird Park is an innovative playground in Lionshead village. The design concept was inspired by nearby bird habitats as well as the town’s ski culture. The result is a collection of artful structures that have been suspended in mid-air. Rope bridges connect each of the structures, which all lead to two main slides. This design combines form and function, fitting perfectly into its surrounding residences.
Diana’s Memorial Playground, London
This vast outdoor children’s play area opened in 2000, in memory of the late Princess Diana. It was designed by environmental planning company, Land Use Consultants, in conjunction with Timberplay, a specialist children’s play organisation. The landscape architects and planners from these companies took inspiration from Peter Pan when designing the playground. The most prominent element of the structure is the wooden pirate ship, which is surrounded by sand, serving as a climbing area for children. The attraction is a great example of a ‘playscape’ - an open-ended natural recreational space - which has been assembled using mostly natural materials.
Belleville Park, Paris
Belleville Park is an abstract structure built into a sloping hill in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. At 108 meters, it’s the highest park in Paris and from the summit, you get an almost panoramic view of the city. The playground was designed by architecture firm BASE, who took the expectations of parents and children alike into account. It features a large playhouse and a challenging climbing course. The design is free-flowing and spontaneous: It has been made to evoke a wide range of settings, such as mountain landscapes and medieval fortifications.
Zorlu Centre Playground, Istanbul
This inventive playground is set in the heart of Zorlu Centre, one of Europe’s largest construction projects. Carve, an Amsterdam-based engineering company designed the playground in collaboration with WATG, a leading UK design firm. From trampolines, slides and adventure towers made from local wood and steel, the park brings both artistry and innovation to this Istanbul site. The playground is divided into separate zones, each representing different ‘worlds’. Built to allow children to dive into their imagination, as well as to provide a unique attraction for the Zorlu Centre project.
Playgrounds and other recreational areas are a vital part of any community. They provide an identity for citizens, allowing families and young individuals to engage with the world around them and exercise creative and imaginative thinking. Playgrounds are essential for a child’s development and physical well-being. When done well, playgrounds can become vibrant public resources that are vital to the city or town, creating a space for learning, adventure, and playful discovery.
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