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BY KIM O’CONNELL

With playgrounds off limits, Philadelphia’s Studio Ludo gets creative for low-income families.

FROM THE AUGUST 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In downtown Philadelphia, a colorful city development project is under way. The buildings are bright blue and orange, the gabled roofs patterned with triangles and chevrons. The front doors are sunflower yellow, and residents seem happy and content—at least as content as little plastic dinosaurs can be.

The project is Tube Town, a “city” made of toilet paper tubes, construction paper, markers, and glue. Tube Town is one of Studio Ludo’s new Play Packs, a resource created for families during the COVID-19 crisis, and the brainchild of the firm’s executive director, Meghan Talarowski, ASLA. In addition to providing 30 downloadable play and craft projects online—all imaginatively staged and photographed, as with the addition of the little dinos—the firm has worked with local community organizations to distribute play materials to families in need. “We thought, since we’re not doing outside projects right now, how do we bring play to families?” Talarowski says. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

M. Paul Friedberg’s Billy Johnson Playground. Photo courtesy the Central Park Conservancy.

M. Paul Friedberg, FASLA, on why cities should be places to play instead of places for playgrounds.

 

The granite slide in New York City’s Billy Johnson Playground is an illustration of M. Paul Friedberg’s design philosophy. Its 45-foot serpentine curve is nestled into a rocky outcropping, one of Central Park’s startling moments of geologic heft. The slide came from Friedberg’s observations of how his own children tumbled down the slate gray behemoths.

Located at the East 67th Street entrance to Central Park, the playground is inspired by the park’s landscape and context, expressed through rustic wood pole knots and stone blocks. The granite slide, like other elements of the playground, is less a discrete object and more “an incident in the park” that flows naturally from its setting, says Friedberg, the recipient of the 2015 ASLA Medal. “You wanted to make it look like you just came across this.”

By layering the slide on top of geology, the slide “doesn’t have to be in a playground,” Friedberg says. And it  gets to the heart of his approach at Billy Johnson Playground. “Do you consider Central Park a place for playgrounds,” he says, “or is it a place to play?” (more…)

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BY MIMI ZEIGER

A beloved Lake Merritt play sculpture is a reminder that creativity is a public good.

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Guiding the transition of San Francisco’s Presidio from military base to national park may be the standout accomplishment of the landscape architect and parks administrator William Penn Mott Jr., who assumed the helm of the U.S. National Park Service in 1985, but it’s a little “monster” from early in Mott’s career that has received renewed attention.

In 1952, when Mott was parks superintendent for the city of Oakland, he commissioned the artist Robert “Bob” Winston to create a unique play structure on the sandy banks of Lake Merritt. Sculptural and organic, the chartreuse green piece was known as the Mid-Century Monster. It was one of the first designs in the United States to depart from (more…)

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