Category Archives: 1960s playgrounds

From Hong Kong with Love

Over the years, PlayGroundology has received lots of wonderful comments from readers and play enthusiasts around the world. It is a real pleasure to think that in some small ways the blog is helping to inspire people to advocate for a greater variety of public play spaces for kids. Today, a comment arrived from Hong Kong regarding a post published in 2012.

I lived near this park. I was born in 1969, the same year as this park opened. These sculptures accompanied me since I was born, until I was 16. They were then too old and replaced by new playground facilities.

The most fascinating thing about this playground is that it was composed of 4 different sand pools. Kids built sand castles there everyday. Besides, those sculptures possessed secret holes and spaces where kids could play hide and seek. A kid could hide himself inside a sculpture so secretly that no one could discover him within 10 minutes. Amazed?

Every night, lovers would hide themselves inside those “holes”, kissing each other and ………..

These park brought me a marvelous childhood, wonderful memory!!!!!!

An article was published earlier today in Hong Kong about this playground from the past. I don’t read, or speak Chinese but for those who do, the article is reproduced below with some lovely photos.

Damon Leung kindly provided the English translation which follows the original HK01 article.

剛過去的星期日,到西九文化區的市民,沿著海旁的欄杆散步,可見到數十張被架起的照片和它們的詳盡解說。那是當日進行的社區藝術節目「青涌生活節」的一部份,策劃機構「創不同」(MaD) 聯同葵青區的街坊,用不同創意形式,在西九展現葵涌和青衣的社區文化。由葵青歷史照片構成的裝置,由藝術策劃人樊樂怡與同事構思和製作,當日人人都對其中四張照片嘖嘖稱奇,在她意料之內:原來,將近50年前,葵涌有過一個極前衛的遊樂場。一切發現,從遇上幾張照片開始。
撰文:城市創作實驗室創辦人 黃宇軒

b0cf47dd7fceb946d4896cd768271a8250年前位於石籬的前衛遊樂場 (從「青涌生活節」現場翻拍)

如何發現不為人知的前衛遊樂場

《青涌生活節》是跟區議會合辦的節目,樊樂怡記得跟區議員開會時有人提起葵涌曾經有個華達片場,於是她在尋找葵青區歷史照片時,就特別留意有沒有華達片場的蹤影,後來遇上了意外收穫。

她到新聞處的影像圖書館查年報中的彩色照片。「我逐年翻。翻到1969年,看到六張奇異的遊樂場照片,色彩斑斕,我驚覺,其中一張遊樂場照片的右下角,就是我尋覓已久的華達片場,那即是說,這個遊樂場是位於葵涌的。」

從葵青到華達片場,再到香港年報,從事藝術的樊樂怡遇上了這個鮮有聽聞過的藝術遊樂場。熟知葵涌地理和建築的她,稍為搜尋後,發現網上幾無關於這遊樂場的資料,知道這可能是個大發現。

58d9bfe0a4e4cdfbf854ad6263901fe350年前位於石籬的前衛遊樂場 (來源: Playgroundology)

設施無法歸類成滑梯鞦韆 反而更像雕塑

幾張照片,帶來了一條線索:在人人都抱怨遊樂場設施愈來愈倒退的今天,舊日遊樂場除了懷舊討論區時時見到的款式外,香港遊樂空間,原來有過非常另類的一頁,而那看來也是香港藝術史和藝術空間史上重要的一頁。照片上看到這個遊樂場其中四種大型玩樂設施,都很難歸類為滑梯、 鞦韆等,它們更像大型的現代雕塑,有抽象的、有簡約的、有像超現實主義作品、有的甚至像後現代設計。除了罕見的雕塑狀設計,遊樂場背後的山坡還被當成畫布,漆上簡約抽象的圖樣。這個「雕塑遊樂場」的佈局,顯然充滿藝術構思。

原來它的設計者,正是一位熱心藝術教育、曾經在香港工作的美國藝術家。樊樂怡指出:「照片僅有的文字解說,提到它位處石籬徙置屋邨,在1969年建成時,是在亞洲唯一有、該類型的遊樂場,由美國藝術家Paul Selinger所造,當時的皇家賽馬會捐了$15萬元建成……網上暫時可找到的資料,也大概是這些。」年報上的資料也說明,Paul Selinger將香港視為第一站,更希望這個前所未有的遊樂場, 還可在別的地方繼續出現,他希望當中的建設,既是可被觀賞的雕塑作品,也是可讓人遊玩的新類型設施。

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由美國藝術家設計 香港給他「藝術自由實現意念」

「在網上和社區歷史中,差不多沒有關於它的資料。原來香港有過這樣前衛的遊樂場,跟當時歐美一些風潮同步。」樊樂怡發現全球知名、研究遊樂場設計、並視遊樂場研究為新型社會科學的博客Playgroundology,曾在其網站談及這公園。對方是在英國國家檔案管遇上相關資料,故從資料只知道其地點為「殖民九龍」。Playgroundology得到的資料比樊樂怡遇上的更少,研究當然沒下文。見到對方徵求更多相關訊息,她亦把偶然找到的資料都跟這位專家分享。

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「暫時可進一步找到的資料不多,其中,那位藝術家(Paul Selinger)回到美國後,曾寫過一封信給一本叫Rotarian的雜誌,行文中對在香港建的遊樂場十分自豪,還批評美國不夠香港開放。」Selinger在這封題為《美國遊樂場:有限的視野》的信中這樣寫:「作為一個剛好在香港居住和工作過的美國人,我有機會在石籬實踐我的設計意念,我懷疑,在美國這就不可能實現。我回來後跟在頂尖美國建築行的園景建築師談過,就更確信是如此。他們抱怨要不斷倒出模華而不實的設計去滿足欠缺視野的市政官員。我的意念可在香港被證明是成功的,因為我被給予藝術自由,去將它們實現。……我回來(三藩市灣區) 後發現與公園和公務相關的官員、還有建築師,只會在現成的目錄中選一些不同顏色、但同款的設施放在遊樂場裡……要說服決策者設計遊樂場時,想像力是重要的,才可讓情況改變。」

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香港遊樂場作為全球戰後建築風潮的一頁

為了讓更多人理解這種曾足以教香港自豪的想像力,樊樂怡開始一個小型研究計劃,正式研究這個香港有過、近乎難以置信的遊樂場:「因為初步找到的資料太少,下一步,我想訪問石籬的街坊、房署、區議員、Paul Selinger在香港工作時遇上過的人和機構,甚至他的家人。」

僅有的資料顯示,2015年底才離世的Paul Selinger,1961年起在香港大學任教藝術,1969年落實了這個前衛遊樂場的構想不久,就返回美國。今天重尋這個遊樂場的資料,除了追尋香港有過的「奇跡」,慨歎這個城市將近50年前有過的前衛空間今天不復再,和倡議建設更有創意的公共遊樂場外,也是重現全球現代遊樂場史裡的一小塊拼圖。

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二戰後歐美進步而創新的年輕建築學生和藝術家,都踴躍投身公共事業,為人民服務,促成了大量前衛和異想天開的設計被落實在公共建築中,特別是公共房屋、公共空間和公共設施的設計,當中遊樂場就是特別具實驗性的一頁。許多「粗獷主義」的先鋒遊樂場應運而生,至今還讓世人著迷。只是沒想到,香港的徙置屋邨,也有過以抽象雕塑為主題的遊樂場,在1969年就已接上過前衛遊樂場的歷史。

(如認識任何人用過這遊樂場,或有任何跟這遊樂場相關的資料,可聯絡樊樂怡,支持她繼續研究這前衛遊樂場的計劃:helen@lokbi.com )

參考資料:
青涌生活節(創不同):
Playgroundology
Playground Project
http://hyperallergic.com/295172/the-forgotten-artistic-playgrounds-of-the-20th-century/

Translation

Author: Wong Yu Hin, founder of the Urban Creation Laboratory
Last Sunday, the visitors of the West Kowloon Cultural District would see dozens of photographs and their detailed explanations along the railings of the waterfront. It was a part of the community art program “Kwai Chung Festival”. Organization (MaD), together with the neighbours of Kwai Tsing, showcased the community cultures of Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi in the West Kowloon in various creative ways. The setup consisted of Kwai Tsing historical photos was designed and developed by the art planner Fan Lokbi and her colleagues. During the exhibition everyone was amazed on four photos as she expected. They showed that Kwai Chung had a very avant-garde playground 50 years ago and everything started with the discovery of these few photos.

How the unknown avant-garde playground was discovered?
“Kwai Chung Festival” was a program organized by District Councils and MaD jointly. Fan Lokbi remembered that during a meeting with district counselors, she was informed that there had been a Wah Tak Studio in Kwai Chung before. So when she was looking for historical pictures of Kwai Tsing District, she would pay special attention to whether there was any trace of Wah Tak Studio and later she got an unexpected reward.

She went to the Image Library of the Information Office to check the color photos in the annual reports. “I had turned over each year until I turned to 1969, I saw six exotic playground photos. They were so colorful. I was shocked by one of the playground photo. The Wah Tak Studio, I have long been looking for, was shown at the lower right corner of that photo. That meaned the colorful playground was located in Kwai Chung.

Fan Lokbi, who was engaged in the art, met this unfamous playground along the path of Kwai Tsing to Wah Tak Studio, and to the Hong Kong annual report. Familiar with Kwai Chung geography and architectures, she found no information about the playground on the Internet after a little search. She knew that this might be a big discovery.

Facilities can not be classified as slides or swings but more like sculptures.
A few photos brought a clue about an importnt page in the art histories of Hong Kong and its amusement area. Everyone is complaining about the playground facilities getting backwards today. However, in addition to the old styles of playgrounds shown in the nostalgic discussion groups, Hong Kong amusement area in fact have had a very different page before. Photos showed the playground, of which the four large-scale recreational facilities were difficult to classify as slide or swing. They were more like large modern sculptures, abstract, simple, just like surrealist works. Some were even like postmodern designs. In addition to the rare sculpture design, the hillside behind the playground also was treated as a canvas and painted with simple abstract drawings. The layout of this “sculpture playground” was clearly full of artistic ideas.

Its designer, who was enthusiastic about art education and had worked in Hong Kong, was an American artist. Fan Lokbi pointed out, “The only text explanation of the photo mentioned that it is located in the Shek Lei resettlement estate. Built in 1969, this type of playground was the only one in Asia made by American artist Paul Selinger. At that time the Royal HK Jockey Club donated HK$150,000 to build it. Online information about the playground is probably the same as these.” The information on the annual report also showed that Paul Selinger regarded Hong Kong as the first stop and hoped that this unprecedented playground would keep appearing in other places. He also hoped that the construction could be viewed as sculpture works and also be a new type of facilities to let people amaze.

Designed by American Artist, “Artistic Freedom” was given by Hong Kong to realize his ideas.
“In the online and community history, almost no information about it. In fact Hong Kong had such an avant-garde playground, which synchronized the trend of Europe and the United States at that moment.” Fan Lokbi found that the world’s famous blog Playgroundology, which studied the playground design as a new social science, had talked about this park on its website. Playgroundology encountered related information in the United Kingdom national archives. From the information its location was known as “colonial Kowloon”. Playgroundology received even less information than Fan Lokbi, so no study followed of course. Knowing Playgroundology asked for more relevant information, she shared the information found accidentally with their experts.

“There is not much further information available. After the artist (Paul Selinger) returned to the United States, he had written a letter to a magazine called Rotarian. He was proud of the playground in Hong Kong and criticized the United States for being less open to Hong Kong.” In the letter entitled “American Playground: A Limited Vision” Selinger wrote, “As an American who lived and worked in Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to realize my design ideas in Shek Lei. I doubted if this could be achieved in the United States. I talked with the landscaped architects at the top American architecture after I came back, the case was even more so. They complained that they should continue to pour out the meeless design to meet those municipal officials who lacked vision. My ideas proved successful in Hong Kong because I was given the freedom of art to realize them. After I came back (San Francisco Bay Area), I found the officials associated with the park and civil service, as well as architects, would only choose some different colors but the same facilities on the playground from the ready-made catalog. To convince policymakers during the design of a playground, imagination was important in order to make the situation change.”

Hong Kong playground as a new page of the global post-war building trend.
In order to let more people understand this imagination which Hong Kong to be proud of, Fan Lokbi began a small research program, an official study of this almost incredible playground in Hong Kong, “Because the initial information was too little, I would like to visit the neighborhoods of Shek Lei, the HD, District Council members, Paul Selinger’s co-workers in Hong Kong and even his family.”

The only information showed that Paul Selinger, who died at the end of 2015, taught art at the University of Hong Kong since 1961. Soon after the concept of the avant-garde playground was implemented, he returned to the United States in 1969. Searching for the playground information today, in addition to the pursuit of such a “miracle” Hong Kong had before, the city was lamented for the avant-garde space nearly 50 years ago which was no longer there today. Not only as initiatives to build more creative public playgrounds, but also to reproduce a small piece of puzzle in the history of the world’s modern playgrounds.

After the Second World War, innovative young students and artists in Europe and the United States were actively engaged in public utilities for the people and contributed to a large number of avant-garde and whimsical designs. These designs were implemented in public buildings, especially in the design of public housing, public spaces and public facilities. The playground was a particularly experimental page. Many “rugged” pioneer playgrounds came into being, so far were still fascinating the world. But it was unexpected that a Hong Kong’s resettlement estate would use abstract sculptures as the theme and had connected to the history of avant-garde playground since 1969.

Philadelphia Freedom – Shine the Light on Play

In Philadelphia, the Smith Memorial Playground is a beacon. The space reverberates with tumultuous noise as kids high kick it into discovery mode. After more than a century, this place remains a play haven. However, the Smith oasis is not representative of play opportunities in public spaces throughout the city.

Art of Active Play_process3One of the many activities taking place during Philadelphia’s Play Space

Play Space, a partnership between the Community Design Collaborative and The Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC), is pumping up the volume on the play dialogue. The kidcentric project is active with local and international communities exploring modalities of play that go beyond standardized spaces. This is no off the shelf, prefab play solutions operation.

Play Space‘s 18-month horizon got underway this summer with architect Alexa Bosse leading the project. She’s a program associate with Community Design Collaborative as well as a landscape architectural designer, longtime community volunteer and mother of 3 1/2 year old twins. Alexa has no shortage of reasons to get active and up the ante for play in Philadelphia.

Play Space logo with tagline

We’re helping to bring the value of play to the forefront and underline how much it’s really needed especially in a city where many people don’t have access to a lot of outdoor space.

Alexa Bosse – Manager, Play Space

Play Space is part of Infill Philadelphia which engages innovative design in the revitalization of neighbourhoods. Over the course of the program there is a lecture series, a youth build with playable structures as well as work with educators and home-based child care centres.

Accessible play makes for better communities and stronger families.

Alexa Bosse

Alexa is most enthusiastic about the design competition that will benefit three public agencies – a library, a school and the city’s parks and recreation branch. Although the USA has significant design restrictions, many associated with safety concerns, the dialogue that Play Space is leading is making inroads. With special friends like author Susan Solomon and filmmaker Erin Davis, who screened her documentary The Land, helping to spur the conversation, alternative visions of play spaces are gaining more currency.

Art of Active Play - Balancing Act - Smith PlaygroundBalancing Act, Art of Active Play – Smith Playground

In fact, decision makers from the public agencies were initially very prescriptive in their directions. They have now relaxed the prescriptive directions in the interest of encouraging creativity and attracting a wide range of design teams to the competition. Alexa hopes that the result of this opening up will be finding a balance that emphasizes creativity and innovation while challenging people’s thinking about what a play space can be in an urban landscape. The best case scenario is that the design competition attracts models that can be replicated or adapted for other sites.

My hope is that we’ll attract some international interest in the design competition. We’re so ready for it.

Alexa Bosse

Competition open until November 30

All the information required to enter is here.

Nota: one member of the team must be a licensed professional – architect, landscape architect, or engineer – in the country in which they are practicing. Although not a requirement, Play Space is encouraging multi-disciplinary teams that draw on the knowledge and experience of educators, parents, psychologists and others with a close connection to children.

For Alexa, the Play Space objectives present a winning scenario for a city that is welcoming back millennials with young families.

  1. Encourage innovative design
  2. Improve access
  3. Promote dialogue and collaboration
  4. Build Awareness
  5. Provide prototypical design solutions

While we wait in anticipation for the results of the design competition, let’s turn the clock back to some images of Philadelphia play spaces from the 1950s and 60s. Click on the image below, or its cutline for a selection of vintage play sourced at the Philly History photo archives.

Philly 10Youngsters frolic on the igloo climbers at the Pennypack Playground, Philadelphia – 1958

Peeping through Time – Sculpture Continuum: A Playground Group

At Willow Road Elementary in Franklin Square, New York two abstract sculptures situated side by side grace the school’s entrance. The white forms are retired now from their original purpose. Once members of a larger troop their story stretches back over 50 years. In their days of glory they resonated with art lovers and children alike.

Willow St. Elementary School, Franklin Square, New YorkWillow Road Elementary School, Franklin Square, New York. Source – Google Maps.

Prior to being dispersed, the full collection of 13 abstracts was installed on the school grounds where kids climbed, cavorted and made dares on sculpted shapes designed for play while doubling as art. Or is it the other way around – art doubling as play?

School shotThe ‘Chunkies’ at Willow Road Elementary School, 1966. Source – Randy Treadway via worldfairscommunity.org.

The collection was purchased for the Long Island school sometime after 1965. Before that, the sculptures were an attraction at the Chunky Candy Pavilion at the New York World Fair in Flushing Meadows.

The individual sculptures were assembled in a particular array so that peepholes in the pieces provided sight lines that resulted in composite forms becoming visible to the viewer, separate pieces took on a single identity as shown in the photos below.
New York World's Fair

NYC World Fair InstallationThe Chunkies installation 1964 World’s fair. Source – Randy Treadway via worldfairscommunity.org. Click image to enlarge.

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This ingenious playscape was conceived and created by British artist Oliver O’Connor Barrett and originally exhibited in New York City’s Whitney Museum of American Art in 1962.

Array and CompositesImage from Whitney Museum of American Art cataloguee. Source – Internet Archive. Click image to enlarge.

The caption for the image above reads as follows:

Sculpture Continuum: Playground Group. View of the entire group of abstract forms is shown in the center. Grouped around it are the composite images which one sees when looking through specific apertures.

Barrett’s work was equally at home as a gallery showing, a World Fair corporate art piece and a public school playscape. It speaks volumes for its versatility, appeal and uniqueness. It’s possible that the artist may at one point have harboured thoughts of producing the sculptures in greater numbers as he registered a patent of the elephant and the man standing on his head.

US3126202-0US Patent 3,126, 202 filed August 9, 1962. Click image to enlarge.

There is no record of additional sculptures nor a great deal available on Barrett on the interweb. I noticed with interest that he wrote a children’s book, Little Benny Wanted A Pony, illustrated by Richard Scarry. I’d love to get a copy.

Below is the full text from the Whitney Museum of American Art’s exhibit pamphlet.

Full TextSource – Internet Archive. Click image to enlarge.

These one of a kind play sculptures enthralled thousands of kids during their 1964-65 World Fair gig and many more during the years they were installed at their Long Island school home.

If you could make the climb to the top of the giraffe, you were “the coolest”. Can’t recall any bad accidents back then – Russ G

O’Connor had a passion for play, beauty and magic. Abracadabra – one, two, three – he could pull an elephant out of a hat.

Chunky elephantElephant through peephole at the Chunky Candy Pavilion – New York World Fair 1964-65. Source – Randy Treadway via worldfairscommunity.org. Click image to enlarge.

Playground in Colonial Kowloon

It was the year Neil Armstrong debuted the original moonwalk. Get Back and Honky Tonk Woman were number one on the UK charts for six and five weeks respectively. Halfway around the world, the tail end of the sixties saw Hong Kong emerging from protests against British colonial rule.

Circa 1969, the first ever adventure playground in Hong Kong opened in Kowloon.

Source: The National Archives (United Kingdom).

It looks like it was a funky place to play.

Source: The National Archives (United Kingdom).

I’d love to hear from anyone who spent time in this playground growing up. I’m also looking for help to track down some more photos. If you have information or stories on this Kowloon adventure playground, please drop a line at playgroundology@gmail.com

My brother goofing at Victoria Park, Hong Kong.

In present day Hong Kong, the government has developed a handy online playground directory but none of them hold a candle to Kowloon 1969. It was a good year, looks like they broke the mold.

Popular PlayGroundology Posts Year II Revisited

This is my second and final act of self indulgence vis à vis rebroadcasting PlayGroundology posts from year two. I think each of the four embody the magic and wonderful possibilities of the interweb whether they relate to researching, sharing, or collaborating. I hope you’ll enjoy these offerings. Thanks for visiting PlayGroundology.

Newsreel Playgrounds – British Pathé

Thanks to the assignment editors, producers and cinematographers at British Pathé for this selection of playgroundabilia ranging from 1939 to 1967 in various UK locales.

Click on the image to be taken to the play page. Clips can be played at full screen and each has a detailed shot list. Enjoy and thanks again to British Pathé for making their inventory available for public viewing.

Bolton Schoolyard Playground – 1939 – Runtime: 00:50

In all, there are five vignettes to enjoy. This spring I am planning a guest post on the British Pathé blog about these visual treasures and any others that I can source. More…
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Flickr Blog Features PlayGroundology Curated Photos

Click photo to enlarge

What a pleasant surprise when I discovered that the Flickr blog had featured some photos curated by PlayGroundology in a flickr gallery entitled Swedish Aesthetic.

I never tire of thanking the photographers who post their images to flickr. Curating photos using the gallery function is nothing short of a gift. More…
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Seven Up! meets Adventure Playground

I came across a reference earlier this week to the adventure playground scene in the British documentary Seven Up!. The ongoing popularity of this television documentary made it relatively easy to find on the wonderbox as I sometimes call the internet. The acceleration of the opening sequence is zippingly exhilarting. More…
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ABCs for Play – Call and Answer

Starting this morning and ending on Christmas Day, PlayGroundology will be going through the alphabet one letter per day and asking people to submit their favourite words related to play for that letter.

PlayGroundology will send out a tweet ‘call’ each morning with some of its favourites and wait to receive ‘answers’ from others with their favourite play words for the letter of the day.

It was a great participatory game with wordplay and playwords galore. The A through Z results, ranging from 20 to 60 words per letter are posted on PlayGroundology. More…

Sculpted in France – Concrete Art Playgrounds

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for France so I’m always on the lookout for interesting play stories from that part of the world. Our family lived there in the early 70s. I was 12 when we arrived and 15 when we left. It was my gawky early adolescent phase which I like to think I’ve outgrown.

Playgrounds were not a big attraction for me back then – a good thing probably as I don’t recall seeing many of them in the towns or cities where we lived. I was more consumed with soccer, rugby and girls. Who knew you got to give and receive des bises at almost each encounter with girls? One little kiss on each cheek… What a revelation for a wee anglo lad from Toronto. Initially I was a little hesitant but it wasn’t long before I reveled in that custom.

But back to play for the younger set. Even though I did’t see much evidence of them, there were indeed playgrounds in France. Perhaps they were just not as prevalent as they were in North America during the same period. I did come across some actual evidence of original playground design dating back to the late 50s and early 60s just the other day on a couple of French blogs. The designer in question is Pierre Székely who created playful forms out of industrial concrete.

Photo credit: J. Bruchet. Source: Architectures de cartes postales. Designer: Pierre Székely. Cité des Jeux – L’Haÿ-les-Roses, France

Székely was born in Budapest and made his way to France in the post war years. A sculptor, architect, graphic artist and playground designer, his work and play can be found in public spaces and museums throughout France and numerous other countries.

Stockholm’s public art for children inspired Székely’s approach to playgrounds. In the late 1950s he wrote:

It’s in this city (Stockholm) that children for the first time found sculptures installed for them. Even better – there is no one forbidding them to touch. Quite the opposite – all the sculptures were designed so children could climb, slide and run around. The Nordic experience is conclusive – kids are happy exercising outside – Székely

Fifty years later the L’Haÿ-les-Roses slide has lost its original sheen and sports an urban dusting of graffitti. Click through for more historical and present day L’Haÿ-les-Roses images from the As-tu déjà oublié? blog.

I haven’t been able to track down how many playgrounds Székely designed but as you can see in the slideshow there’s certainly a handful scattered about the Paris suburbs that were springing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In the late 60s, Székely made a submission to a playground design competition to create a playscape for the 1968 Grenoble Olympics. His cavernous, earthy design was the winner (slides 12 and 13). The piece could blend right in on the set of the BBC kids’ show In The Night Garden, a perfect home for the rock obsessed Makka Pakka.

Székely made magic with concrete and simple forms – art with a utilitarian purpose. But what a purpose – play, smile, dream. Looking back from our 50 year vantage point, I think his playgrounds had the ability to unleash wonder, imagination and worlds of make believe. Perhaps they still do…

His designs certainly made an impression on Carsten Höller, he of the giant slide installations and mega international venue vernissages fame. Höller made a scale model of the 1958 Cité des Jeux playground in L’Hay-les-Roses and turned it over to two mice.

I’m not sure what statement Höller is making – note the slide in the foreground of the video. Perhaps he’s asking if we’re going to play like mice, or men. From 2010, Mauseplatz was part of the solo show Animals Works.

Primary sources for this post:

As-tu déjà oublié?
Architectures de cartes postales
Catalogue Raisonné des oeuvres du sculpteur

Once Upon A Playground

PlayGroundology allows me the opportunity to speak with many fine people from a variety of countries and backgrounds – artists, designers, advocates and activists, theorists and educators, photographers and psychologists, researchers, nostalgists, parents and beautiful dreamers. All are united in a fervent love of children, playgrounds and play and are mostly in it for the long haul.

I love it when we’re able to keep connected over time and PlayGroundology gets updates of new projects. That happened just today when photographer Brenda Biondo sent me a note about her new book, Once Upon A Playground.

Brenda’s photos were featured in PlayGroundology just after it got out the gates in February 2010. This is what was written back then.

Brenda Biondo is a woman on a mission. Over the last six years she’s clocked thousands of miles on the roads of the southwestern United States. Each time she finds a treasure on one of her expeditions of discovery, she parks her car, takes out her camera and proceeds to shoot frame after frame of America’s disappearing vintage playgrounds. Her eyes and sensibilities are recording the zeitgeist of American public play primarily from the 1950s through the 1970s – the pre-plastic era.
Endangered Species – Vanishing Playscapes

That mission now includes the book noted above. Brenda is offering us a sneak peek before Once Upon A Playground is finally put to bed and released to a broader public.

I went through the more than 100 images this evening and they are a real testament to Brenda’s vision and love of the subject matter. Some photos are breathtaking, stunning and deceptive in their simplicity. But don’t take my word for it, go flip through the digital pages yourself at the companion website, Once Upon A Playground. It won’t be hard to select some favourites. I’ve already discovered quite a few.

Brenda is also interested in gathering old photgraphs and stories from readers about their play and playground memories to post on the site which is where you’ll also find her contact information.

Don’t wait, click through to Once Upon A Playground and get your sneak peek of this beautiful book that takes us on a photographic journey from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Brenda, thanks for thinking of us.