Category Archives: Montréal

Popular PlayGroundology Posts Year 2

Four posts from PlayGroundology’s second year that were popular with readers. Check them out if you didn’t see them first time around.

Lights, Camera, Action

Actually this post is about school, recess and playgrounds. These three words should be as intrinsically linked in the popular consciousness as the trio in the title. There’s just as much drama and adventure on most recess playgrounds as there is on a movie shoot. Recess action for the most part is unrehearsed and the cast are all naturals – it’s an organic kind of thing. Thanks to @kindlinglily for sending this story across the pond.More…

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Eden’s Fallen Log

Over a period of ten years, the Eden Project in Cornwall, England has transformed a disused clay mine into a lush and fertile oasis. Environmental, educational and cultural discoveries are the heartbeat of this wonderland. More…

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Himmelhøj – Sky High – Copenhagen, Denmark

Since he was a young boy growing up in his adopted Australia, Alfio Bonanno knew he wanted to be an artist. At the age of 14, with the full support of his Italian family, he embarked on his apprenticeship in art. From the outset, he was drawn to the materials and the look of the natural world. He’s been on a global walkabout ever since. More…

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In Montreal The Swings Are Alive With The Sound of Music

These are sweetnote dreamswings an innovation in play and sound. The 21 swings installation is located in Montreal’s Quartier des spectacles on the Promenade des Artistes. This is part of the city’s celebrated arts district where the Jazz Festival and Just for Laughs strut their stuff. Now strangers can make music together by leaning back and kicking for the sky. More…

Rights of the Child Marks 20 Years in UK

This December 16th marks 20 years since the UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In recognition of this anniversary, PlayGroundology wants to share with its readers in the UK and elsewhere an inspirational project from Montreal’s Salamander playground.

Salamander Playground in Mount Royal Park is the first public space in the world where images and text have been used side by side to tell the story of children’s rights. The images by artist Gérard Dansereau temper the seriousness of the message with a breath of lightness, splashes of colour and an invitation to play. Montréal now joins Massongex, Switzerland and Luxembourg as cities with Rights of the Child commemorative paths.

To Be Different – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

To Be Different (text) – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

Article 2 (Non-discrimination): The Convention applies to all children, whatever their race, religion or abilities; whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from. It doesn’t matter where children live, what language they speak, what their parents do, whether they are boys or girls, what their culture is, whether they have a disability or whether they are rich or poor. No child should be treated unfairly on any basis.

To Be Protected – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

To Be Protected (text) – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

Article 19 (Protection from all forms of violence): Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally. Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them. In terms of discipline, the Convention does not specify what forms of punishment parents should use. However any form of discipline involving violence is unacceptable. There are ways to discipline children that are effective in helping children learn about family and social expectations for their behaviour – ones that are non-violent, are appropriate to the child’s level of development and take the best interests of the child into consideration. In most countries, laws already define what sorts of punishments are considered excessive or abusive. It is up to each government to review these laws in light of the Convention.

To Play – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

To Play (text) – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

Article 31 (Leisure, play and culture): Children have the right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities.

To express oneself – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

Survival and development – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

Article 6 (Survival and development): Children have the right to live. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.

The tile series tells the story of children’s rights in a visual language that is accessible to younger kids. And then of course there is Salamander Playground itself. If you’re in Montreal, it’s well worth a visit.

5 Cool Ones

Cool is in the eye of the beholder – no common currency, no standard to overlay. Since PlayGroundology’s beginnings in January 2010, I’ve come across a number of what I consider ‘cool’ playgrounds. My kids have seen photos of all of these places and without exception it’s the same question that leaps from their lips – can we go there? And that in a nutshell, as my Mom would say, is one of my primary litmus tests for cool.

So, here is PlayGroundology’s inaugural installment of 5 Cool Ones. They appear in no particular order. The beauty is that there are hundreds more out there waiting to be discovered. That is my dream job – exploring the playgrounds of the world with my family while meeting the kids who play there, the parents who take them and the people who design them. If you ever see this opportunity posted anywhere, please give me a call.

Salamander Playground – Montreal, Canada

Salamander Playground, Aerial View – Montreal, Canada.
Photo Credit – Marc Cramer

The design, equipment and feel here are reminiscent of some playgrounds in western Europe – flickr slideshow. That’s fitting as Montreal is a bustling cosmopolitan city that evokes the old country. There is lots of climbing, spinning, swinging and getting wet. All of this and more in the beautiful setting of Mount Royal Park close to the heart of Montreal’s urban core. More about Salamander Playground here

Miners’ Playground – Chuquicamata, Chile

Chuquicamata Playground, Chile
Photo Credit – Carlos Borlone Leuquén aka Mi otra carne in flickrville

Otherworldly with a touch of the surreal describes some unique play structures that sit quietly in Chuquicamata, a former mining town in northern Chile. Located in the Atacama desert, the most arid on the planet, Chuqui is encircled by foothills of slag and tailings from nearly 100 years of mineral exploitation.

Chuquicamata Playground flickr gallery here.

Himmelhøj – Copenhagen, Denmark

Amager Ark, Copenhagen, Denmark
Photo Credit – Alfio Bonanno

In Copenhagen, tucked away on Amager Island’s southwestern reaches, is a landlocked boat. It seems to have materialized from some distant time and place. The Amager Ark is one component of Bonanno’s Himmelhøj (Sky High), a four piece installation commissioned by the Danish Ministry of the Environment.

Himmelhøj photosets here and here.

Playground – New York City, USA

Playground – Tom Otterness
Photo credit – Marilyn K. Yee, The New York Times

Playground, a Tom Otterness sculpture cum anthropomorphic architecture, cum dreamy play area is a reclining behemoth. The gentle giant is a whirl of fun and fancy, an open invitation for children to play and for adults to rekindle a spark of childlike wonderment. The New York City iteration of the limited edition series is nestled between One River Place and Silver Towers on West 42nd St. between 11th and 12th Avenues, not too far from the Hudson River in Manhattan. Read more here on this one of a kind New York City play sculpture.

Eden Project – Cornwall, England

Oaken Log – Touch Wood Enterprises
Photo courtesy Touchwood Enterprises

Over a period of ten years, the Eden Project in Cornwall, England has transformed a disused clay mine into a lush and fertile oasis. Environmental, educational and cultural discoveries are the heartbeat of this wonderland.

The Eden Project also has a massive section of oak trunk that serves as a rustic play station. The trunk comes from an oak that fell naturally and was then hollowed and sandblasted by Touch Wood Enterprises Ltd.

Eden Log photoset here

Keep in mind that the sample size for these cool playgrounds is very small. There are so many great designers and interesting playscapes out there. If you know a cool playground you’d like to share, send a photo(s) of it, its name and location to playgroundolgy@gmail.com for a future post.

Sand Wasps close down playgrounds in Montreal and Gatineau, Quebec

An infestation of sand wasps is responsible for closing close to 100 playgrounds in Gatineau and the Montreal area. CTV News story here

In Montreal The Swings Are Alive With The Sound Of Music

These are sweetnote dreamswings an innovation in play and sound. The 21 swings installation is located in Montreal’s Quartier des spectacles on the Promenade des Artistes. This is part of the city’s celebrated arts district where the Jazz Festival and Just for Laughs strut their stuff. Now strangers can make music together by leaning back and kicking for the sky.


Cooperation, the unbearable lightness of swinging and musical permutations scoring new compositions – it just doesn’t get any better. Artist-Designers Mouna Andraos and Melissa Mongiat who created the installation with Luc-Alain Girardeau, professor of animal behaviour at the Université de Québec à Montréal (UQAM), are interviewed here.

Photo credit – Quartier des spectacles on flickr

I’m sure this trio’s work has inspired many a passerby since the exhibition opened toward the end of April. I’m kicking myself as we just missed it on our recent Montreal visit. Mark you calendars – the tuneful swinging comes to a standstill on May 23 at 11:00 p.m. – just under two weeks remaining at the time of writing. Take a moment and go swinging under the sun, the stars, the moon.

Beautiful concept. I hope 21 Balançoires will reappear from time to time to inject playfulness in the heart of the city. Thanks to my longtime friend Moussa for passing this on.

Montreal Gazette reporter, Jeff Heinrich wrote a good review that includes a nicely shot video – check the bottom lit swing seats.

Credits for 21 Balançoires here.

Follow the conversation on Twitter at #21B.

Montreal Playground Sightings

In addition to friends, fine international cuisine, Québecois films and the Bibliothèque Nationale, I got to squeeze in a few playgrounds on our recent Montréal mini get away from it all trip. One afternoon my playground widow humoured me and tested out some equipment as we happenstanced across playspaces walking from Atwater Market in the west end to the central shopping strip on rue Ste. Catherine.

Parc Vinet, Rue Vinet and Avenue Lionel Groulx, Montréal
This spinning top needed a little grease. Even with a good running adult push, it spun for only 10 seconds with playground widow Mélanie aboard. I’ve never seen a spinny carousel like it. In my experience, this kind of equipment is in a hallowed class all its own, pretty much on the endangered list. Here, it is the pièce de résistance, the shining star in this playground’s constellation.

Each time I come across equipment that is new to me, it’s like receiving a present. I admire its design, its look and feel and I try to imagine its inherent fun quotient. I frequently wish I could uproot it and take it to a playground near home. The photos above and those that follow show equipment that are in that ‘new to me’ category.

Parc David Lefebvre, Rue Vinet and Rue Quesnel, Montreal
Though its small in size, Parc David Lefebvre is big on the horse aesthetic. The six seater from the red and gold star stable has seen better days. The glide mechanism on the old mare is still working well though. With running boards and hand grips she could probably groan along with 20 or so kids hanging off her. I’ve seen a similar horse in photos taken in England but this is the first chance for me to get up close and personal.

The blue broncing buck is another find with two hooves cutting the air. Climbing on its back, young ones can imagine a cattle drive, a rodeo, a cowboy. This is the wild west with a stallion that won’t be tamed.

Parc Lafontaine, Rue Rachel and Avenue Calixa-Lavallée, Montreal
A ship has run aground at the Parc Lafontaine playground. After monkeying up the rigging, there’s ample opportunity to look out over the shallows strewn with boulders to try and find a way clear to resuming the journey along the Seaway. The black and red stylized vessel is in a class of its own. Resting on a bed of wood chips, it’s permanently anchored in this jewel of a park on the estern borders of Montréal’s Plateau district.

Parc Jarry, Boulevard St. Laurent and Rue Faillon, Montreal
Parc Jarry was the starter home for the Montreal Expos, Canada’s first professional baseball team. Today, the park hosts an international tennis venue, a skate park and a playground that serves both the toddler set and pre-teens.

For the older kids who feel they haven’t got quite enough sleep there is the hammock which I’m told can flip right over though I didn’t witness this. For those with a little more spunk, there are the four parallel triangles to scale and boogie down. Not surprisingly perhaps, the more extreme, nearly vertical slope was the most popular for sliding during our visit. These pieces of equipment are surely familiar to some of you but they were first time attractions for me.

Finding playgrounds in Montreal on this trip was a little hit and miss. The weather didn’t cooperate so there were no screams and laughter from kids having fun to zero in on. Montreal, like many other cities, has not compiled any kind of online directory of playgrounds for use by residents and/or visitors. It means pleasant surprises when fortunate enough to come across treasures but disappointments too.

If you’re traveling to Montreal with kids, make sure to visit Salamander Playground in the Mount Royal Park. It’s a must.
Salamander Playground, Mount Royal Park, Montreal

For the Côte-des-Neiges and the Notre-Dame-des-Grâces area, there is an online resource that lists playgrounds in parks. There is a similar online resource for Villeray, Saint-Michel and Parc-Extension.

More thought should be given to making information on these community resources readily available. What can you do? Contact your municipal government’s parks and rec people to see if they have any plans to post playground information online. Check to see if there are bloggers in your community who are documenting playgrounds – more on this in a subsequent post.

In the meantime, happy playgrounding. We’re pretty sure that springtime is going to arrive in the not too distant future on Canada’s east coast. We will get sunshine, it will get warm…

Go Tell it on the Mountain – Montréal’s Salamander Playground

There’s shade on the mountain and sometimes a soft silky breeze blows a refreshing kiss. These are welcome blessings in one of North America’s finest festival cities where summer’s sticky drip calls out for relief and release. If the kids are not already hot enough, they can work up some steam and then cool down at a new playground opened in 2009 in Montréal’s Mount Royal Park.

In the splash, paddle and run zone, timed jets of water arc into the air from embedded nozzles and a watery film gently bathes a stationary orb. The playground flows through a dip in a small glade in an unhurried meander. Bordered on one side by a sweep of trees, it then opens onto a modest plain lush with grass and shade.

A bird’s eye view shows that the playground’s outline takes the form of a stylized salamander. Two black climbing rocks serve as the amphibian’s eyes and four play zones are housed in the front and rear footprints. This representation pays tribute to the blue spotted salamander a native species that finds some respite in this green urban oasis where it is on a protected list.

The equipment here is atypical. If it isn’t flash-of-fun, kid powered motion, then the kids have to scrabble over, through, or around it. The architecture, landscape and urban design firm CHA (Cardinal Hardy) did their homework sourcing the material for this playscape. Some pieces like the tilted spinning platter originate in Germany. Others, like the orbular fountain, were created by CHA’s Bao-Chau Nguyen who also designed the rustic log benches. The black shine meteoric rocks were tracked down in California. The result is a unique play experience, a blend of climbing, whirling, balancing and spinning far from the city’s madding crowds and traffic.

Click for slide show

Aside from the exquisite location, it is the equipment and its thoughtful placement that really sets this playground apart. Getting just the right mix was an important objective.

“We wanted things that kids could say, ‘oh, that’s different, what can I do with this?’ It wasn’t the regular slides, or swings that we were looking for. We were really after pieces that could be used in multiple ways encouraging discovery and a little experimentation. The spinning platter is a good example. You can sit on it, walk on it, lay flat on your belly.” – Isabelle Giasson, CHA Project Manager

As with all new development in the Park, this project had to be sensitive to the already existing landscapes as envisioned in the 19th century by the granddaddy of urban green space designers, Frederic Olmsted. In comparison with the riotous colours of the 1960s era playspace that preceded it, Salamander playground is a study in muted, minimalist tones of silver, blue and black and softly curving contemporary shapings.

In addition to high performance equipment and a design that mimics the natural flow of vertical and horizontal axes, Salamander Playground features another distinguishing element. Embedded in the pathways and benches throughout the playground are images and excerpts of text that tell the story of the Conventions on the Rights of the Child as elaborated and promoted by UNICEF.

Article 6 (Survival and development): Children have the right to live. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily. The Convention on the Rights of the Child

This is the first public space in the world where images and text have been used side by side to tell the story of children’s rights. The images by artist Gérard Dansereau temper the seriousness of the message with a breath of lightness, splashes of colour and an invitation to play. Montréal now joins Massongex, Switzerland and Luxembourg as cities with Rights of the Child commemorative paths.

The Salamander Playground and the Path for Children’s Rights were officially opened on May 25, 2009 at a combined cost of $2.2 million. In 2010, CHA were presented with a Regional Merit Award for this project by the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects.

This playscape has rapidly become a destination for Montréalers. Two visits were not enough for me. I’m looking forward to my next trek up the mountain perhaps in the summer of 2011. Maybe this time I’ll get up enough nerve to dash through the fountains and try out some of the equipment myself – a little adult playground therapy. What are we grown-ups to do, is it just vicarious fun for us?

If you visit on a Sunday from May through September check out the free drumming fest from noon to dusk. This is truly tam-tam a go-go.

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All photos by A. Smith with the exception of aerial Salamander Playground shot by Marc Cramer.