Category Archives: Robert S. Leathers

Jamie Bell Adventure Playground Photo Shoot

Earlier this week, the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in Toronto’s High Park was partially destroyed by arson. The community is outraged and vows to rebuild. I’m sure the playground will rise again and reclaim its former magical hold on kids and adults alike.

Below are four slideshows I posted on flickr today. The shots were taken about a year ago on a cold frosty March morning. Click the text links or the photos themselves to activate the slideshows.

The Towers

The Equipment

The Etchings

The Paintings

All the best on the rebuilding.

How do we stop the Jamie Bell Playground madness?

For about a year now, I’ve been compiling media stories on vandalism and arson in playgrounds with the intent of writing about this contagion. I signed myself up for a discussion group on the topic on LinkedIn but haven’t really created the time to participate though many others have as they seek solutions to the problem.

The stories I’ve read frequently report on destructive activities in small towns. Cities are not immune but proportionately, I’ve read fewer stories about vandalized playgrounds in urban centres. This may be because these kind of stories are not covered as much by big city media. Invariably, the playgrounds involved are of the composite plastic and metal variety. For these structures, a raging fire’s superheat results in twisting metal and plastic melting into a dripping caustic goo.

On St. Patrick’s Day the senseless madness struck Toronto’s Jamie Bell Playground in the city’s beloved High Park, the downtown green space sans pareil. Here’s what it looks from a Toronto Star photo.

Source: Toronto Star. Click image to enlarge.

This one really hit home for me. On a business trip to Toronto last March, I made an early morning pre-work visit to Jamie Bell Playground just to check out one of the funkier downtownish play spaces. Though I traipsed through mud on a frosty frost morning I wasn’t disappointed. This is a Robert Leathers special on a grand scale. They can be found in communities throughout North America – customized, wooden playgrounds built with community engagement and sweat of the brow labour.

I took a lot of photos that cold March morning thinking of the day I’d get to take my kids there. It was a soft, sweet and dreamy start to a long business day.

Source: PlayGroundology. Click image to enlarge.

The now burned towers once looked like this. I’m on the road again today and only have access to these thumbnails. I’ll post a set of Jamie Bell photos to my flickr account later in the week.

It’s such a despicable act of cowardice as it confronts children with senseless destruction. More than 2,000 people have facebooked the Toronto Star story. Jamie Bell will rise again through the same community spirit that created it in the first place.

Another photo of the destruction from Torontoist.

Source: Torontoist. Click image to enlarge.

More photos from Torontoist here

Here’s PlayGroundology’s original Jamie Bell post

Let’s hope the perpetrators are caught. This kind of senseless destruction is happening in communities across the US, Canada and the UK. Charred remains are a terrible way to start a day.

Let’s Play, Play, Play in St. Andrews By-The-Sea

It’s always a treat to unexpectedly come across a playground jewel. I love those sweet spot moments when I first see a new playscape that will become the subject of a PlayGroundology post.
Click photos to enlarge

On the rare occasions that I travel for work, the discoveries usually take place before the business day begins. I then have to wait patiently until the following morning, or the end of the work day to return to the site and shoot some photos. This was the case recently in St. Andrews By-The-Sea in southwestern New Brunswick on the Canadian shore of Passamaquoddy Bay.

At the St. Andrews Creative Playground, ten towers march skyward creating vertical sightlines for the many walkways, ramps and bridges that connect and lead to a variety of play areas. In addition to standard climbing, swinging and sliding stations, there are opportunities to test balancing prowess, play a tune on percussive pipes, let your fingers do the walking on an etched maze, or play tic-tac-toe with wooden blocks.

There are wonderful decorative touches throughout the playground including a red-spiked green dragon that wraps around one of the structures, fired tiles and concrete squares with symbols, names and collages embedded in a wall and a do-it-yourself pegboard art station.

In keeping with attention to details, a standard plastic tube swirl slide has two plexiglass windows installed on either side at the launch point. Small ones can look out and wave before they push off and whoosh momentarily through the darkness to the circle of light below. This is a customized design element that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

In 1993, Leathers & Associates from Ithaca, New York led the community in the design and building of this playground. Bob Leathers got his start in the playground world in the early 1970s when he was asked to organize people to build a playground at his children’s school. Since then, he’s been to every US state and seven countries with his brand of kid consultation and community build. Toronto’s High Park playground is another of his Canadian creations.

With an estimated lifespan of 25 years, there is still time for lots of laughter and play at the St. Andrews Creative Playground. If you’re in the neighbourhood of a playground designed by Leathers & Associates, take a moment and let your kids explore, run and play. They’ll love you for it.
Click on photo above for flickr slideshow.

NoteTomorrow, KaBOOM! will celebrate its 2,000th build in Washington, D.C. with a little help from First Lady Michelle Obama. Bravo for bringing communities, kids and playgrounds together and a big hats off to the KaBOOM! team for their social enterpreneur prowess