Category Archives: Ottawa City Hall

Urban Play Space

There’s a place in the centre of Ottawa that just screams play to me. It’s like an invitation to make believe, to climb, jump, lounge and generally have fun.

It’s not designated as a play space but does that really matter? There is a truly inside out aesthetic going on here with what is in fact a public art installation. Let’s not forget that public art frequently doubles as venues for kids to have some fun – to whit hometown Halifax’s The Wave….

Here in Canada’s capital, in a downtown pedestrian courtyard The Living Room by UrbanKeios livens up the sight and the smile lines within a quadrant of government buildings.

Over the years, I’ve dropped by to revel in the lightness, the levity of the piece in these oh so official and serious environs. There are law courts and offices for the City of Ottawa, who commissioned the work, and less than ten minutes away on foot are Canada’s Parliament buildings.

Now I wouldn’t necessarily put this small green space surrounded by brick and mortar and located on top of an underground parking garage in the category of a destination play place. But it is a bit of an oasis, a space that is worth a pause on a walking route and a few moments for young ones to run around and amuse themselves within this incongruous setting. What great opportunities for boys and girls to play house in the great outdoors.

I still enjoy strolling over when I’m in Ottawa. Over the years, I’ve walked through the door, reclined in the chairs, looked out the window and tried in vain to tune in a channel on the industrial looking vintage TV. It’s like a theatre set and takes me back several decades to an Ionesco play I appeared in – Jacques ou La Soumission – L’avenir est dans les œufs. It’s just the kind of farfelu that I like.

In all my visits though, I have yet to see kids playing here. I know they must – our timing has just not coincided. Let’s hear it for public spaces that unintentionally lend themselves to play, a wonderful happenstance! If you have similar examples in your community, drop a line to PlayGroundology we’d love to hear from you…

Art as Play – The Indoors – Outdoors Playground

In the interior courtyard of Ottawa’s City Hall there is a place where the door is always open. The Living Room is a multiple piece static sculpture by the design duo at Urban Keios .

This is art as playground, an open invitation for children to make believe and scamper about slightly oversize chairs with out of kilter door and window frames defining the space. It looks like a set prepped for the shooting of a claymation adventure where we’re just waiting for the action to begin. There in the near distance is a TV permanently piping in the imagination station.

Although The Living Room is not designed as a playground per se, what kids could resist stopping off momentarily for a touch of make believe, of playing house, of filling the blue sky space with movement and laughter?

Somebody’s having fun. The grass is worn away down to hard packed earth between the door frame and around the chairs. I should have taken the opportunity to rest my own weary feet for a moment that day.

PlayGroundology has more to offer from Canada’s capital in a subsequent post. Stay tuned for Strathcona’s Folly, a timeless playscape constructed with architectural throwaways and lovingly designed with surprises for small hands and eyes.

All materials, unless otherwise attributed or credited, copyright ⓒ 2010 Alex Smith.

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