Thursday, March 15, 2012

Happy Birthday Aldo! Happy Birthday Blog!

 Aldo van Eyck would have been 94 today, March 16, and this blog is 4. 

This fortuitous alignment of dates wasn't planned.

I didn't even know who Aldo was when I started posting the few playgrounds I could find that weren't out of a box, weren't 'kfc' playgrounds (in the playground world kfc stands for 'kit, fence and carpet' and has nothing at all to do with Colonel Sanders), that aspired to create space for play, not just to install equipment.  

For those of you just joining us (and there are alot of you this year!) I started the blog out of sheer frustration really--tasked with upgrading the small playground at my church, I couldn't find anything well designed and reasonably priced--and the first fifty pages of a google search for 'playground' turned up the same boring sets of equipment.  Here green instead of red or with a swirly slide instead of a straight one, but kfc playgrounds all the same, and a local supplier told me the smallest set he could 'recommend' for a church was $25,000.  For something that came out of a box.

Good playground design was, to my surprise, really tough to find and I thought I'd post the ones I knew of just in case anyone else was interested.  But it was over a year of writing before I had more than 100 views a day, and since my *real* job is in science and I write this blog on nights and weekends (even now I'm in my laboratory, sitting in front of my electron microscope waiting on the ion beam to finish its work) I'm not sure why I kept going. 

But I think it was Aldo.  I came across the book 'Aldo van Eyck the Playgrounds and the City' documenting the over 700 playgrounds he designed for the city of Amsterdam after World War II and it confirmed the vague feeling I had when I looked around at what passed for a playground--that it just wasn't good enough.  

Aldo, as a highly original thinker, artist, and architect had devoted himself, given his absolute best, all he knew of design and craft and placemaking, to these spaces for children in a devastated city.  I wanted to see that same attention, care, devotion to the child's place and experience, in contemporary playgrounds. 

I still do, and whatever I post here on Playscapes is because I see something of that devotion and care and craft.  I'm seeing alot more of it now than I did four years ago!  And I hope what you see here will inspire you, my readers, to advocate better design, to demand better playgrounds, to make better playgrounds, yourself.   

Most of the playgrounds you see here on Playscapes are large public installations.  But many of Aldo van Eyck's installations were actually quite small and I've wanted for some time to fill in the lower end of the  scale. celebrate Aldo's birthday three of Playscapes' very best friends--amazing architects and designers all--have designed small-scale play features, perfectly DIYable, that I'll be making FREE for download in this, Aldo's birthday week!

A taste of what you'll get tomorrow....

Look for the first one tomorrow, and the next on Monday.   I'm really excited to bring these to you.  Your readership (nearly 4000 a day now!) is a joy, and a surprise, and I'm grateful we've learned so much about playgrounds together.   Here's to Aldo.

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