Thursday, March 24, 2011

Plants for Play Database

I am a landscape architect, I know plant, I love plants. But, I am always a little nervous about using the right plant in playscapes. That is why I like this tool so much. You can search by state, region, zone, plant type, etc.

I do not rely completely on this list. I check Oregon poison control and a few of my other favorite poisonous plant databases and here before I finalize my planting plan. But, this is a fun list and great if you need a few suggestions.

10 feet off the ground, hammer in hand, and an amazing sense of achievement

I could have an entire blog about the schools and parks I saw in Berlin. They were inspiring and really opened my mind to the wide world of play. I have since realized just how different the safety standards are in the EU and the US.

This Adventure Playground in Berlin has it all; animals, soccer field, indoor gathering area, bicycle mechanic shop, art studio, and much more. The piece that I thought was amazing was the fort building area.

Kids rent a numbered platform for two weeks where they can build their own fort. Tools are rented on site. Old nails can be pulled from stacks of old boards and traded in for new nails. This also helps keep the grounds clean and safe(er).

Each fort is connected by a long series of elevated decks. In the summer there are overnight events where you sleep in your fort!

If adventure play like this had been available when I was a kid I would have never left. I think it is sad that the legal state of affairs in our country keeps creative endeavors like this from happening. I consider these calculated risks that older children should be able to take if they choose. There is a learning value, level of brain development, and social interaction here that can not be matched by a classic US playground structure.

Amazing Swings

 Check out these creations from Myburgh Designs. I also found this inspiring quote on their website.

” The slower you move the slower life passes and the more you see. The quicker you move, the quicker life passes and the less you see.”

Most of my projects are public and quasi-public design (childcare centers and schools). But, if I ever get the chance to do some residential design this is my first choice accent piece! I can just imagine curling up in one of these pods and taking a nap or reading a book. Ahhhhhhh

Friday, March 18, 2011

Playground Hills and Embankment Slides

I wanted to post about playground hills today. Almost every person I talk to wants a hill in their learning landscape, with an embankment slide of course. It is kind of a trademark of natural play. Most folks picture a grass hill that is perpetually green and mowed (by someone else ;).

But, most of these spaces will get a low level of maintenance and the hill is likely to turn into dirt and mud at the top and on the sides of the slide from all of the excited foot traffic. I want to encourage this 'traffic' but discourage mud. Below are things I have tried or proposed recently with a varying degree of success. Let me know if you have installed or seen something that works well. I would be interested in photos too.


photo from

-  Using bark mulch next to the slide and on the top of the mound to simplify mowing and edging as well as reduce grass trampling and mud. I worry that the chips will migrate after a while leaving... you guessed it dirt.

- I like the slide from Friedberg's Central Park example. I wrote about here. The concrete sides save surrounding hill and vegetation. Plus they are fun to climb!

- What about mats that support lawn or fake lawn? Here is an example from Erect Architecture that I like.

- I have used a soil binder. The one I specified is actually used in outfield dirt on baseball fields. They send an aggregate and binder and you mix with native soil. This one happens to be red too, very fun!

- I have used rubber surfacing, and a mix of rubber surfacing and chips. But sometimes I like the natural feeling of grass. 

Clackamas Community College Early Head Start Facility by GreenWorks
Bethany Meadows 'Pirate Ship Park' by GreenWorks

This example from Cooper Mountain Nature Park
shown resilient surfacing next to the sides of the slide

- What about a high percentage of river rock in the soil? This is good for stabilizing and less mud in the long run but tends to kill the grass quickly.

- I have just used grass and let it turn into dirt and get compacted. As long at the owner and maintenance person were ok with this. Here is a nice example of brown grass that still looks fun!

Have you had good success with hills and slides? Do you mind the dirt or mud? I think it may all depend on the site and the user but I have not seen a good one size fits all solution...yet. If you have read this far go ahead and leave a comment! Sometimes I feel like my posts drop from my fingers off the end of the earth.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

It's colorful, it's international, it's amazing! Go Play!

Wow! i ran into this organization recently and I love their work. The colorful playgrounds are shadowed by the smiling faces and opportunities offered to children in these communities. Seeing the before and after pictures gives me a great respect for the work that this organization does. They operate under this byline
"We build playgrounds where there are none and we work with others to do the same…"

This international playground initiative is bringing playgrounds to children all over the world. The designs are colorful, utilize locally available materials, and offer a wide variety of play types. Project locations include; Fiji, Thailand, Kenya, Cambodia, East Timor, Mae Sot Thailand, Kenya, Northern India, and the Philippines.

Be sure to check out their support website that offers lots of specific ideas and toolkits.

All photos and info from the go play project!
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