Category Archives: worldplay

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

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 Click image to enlarge.

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 Click image to enlarge.

Come Visit The PlayGroundology FB Gallery

There is much art in the creation of vibrant public play spaces. Their aesthetic, their physicality and their spatial rendering push mind and body to new imaginative experiences. This presents a great opportunity for virtual galleries like PlayGroundology FB to curate news, design, research, advocacy and trends.

FB 1599Click to enlarge

After a couple of years of experimentation, I’ve found the pace that I think I can maintain. Each weekday two new posts are added to the gallery which is purposefully light on words and heavy on visuals. For those looking for story, words can frequently be found via bitly click throughs in the accompanying text.

Each day is a discovery of what is new in the realm of outdoor play and what is informing and inspiring playscapes in a variety of countries around the world. In the past year, growth in page likes has gone from just under 400 to just over 1600 with a very high retention factor. If you haven’t stopped by, please do and invite your friends along also. You’ll come across some interesting fare.

space2placeClick to enlarge

When I show my kids photos and short video clips of some of these one of a kind playscapes, they are invariably in awe. I usually get two questions immediately, “can we go there?” followed by “why don’t they have any playgrounds like that here?” They’re both great questions particularly the latter. I don’t have any answers to that question yet for the community I live in but I’m working on it.

DriftwoodClick to enlarge

Material is sourced from mainstream media, specialty online publications, academic journals, original posts in the PlayGroundology blog, twitter, flickr, blogs, other FB pages, online national archive collections for those photos from yesteryear and anywhere else I can poke my inquisitive nose around. A big thank you to all those who created the original content. I do my best to cite and recognize sources and where possible link to them.

Favela RioClick to enlarge

On occasion posts in the PlayGroundology FB Gallery turn into blog posts. One of those is starting to brew right now. Back in November I posted a photo of a play space in a Rio neigbourhood. For me there is an undercurrent of strength in this image that speaks to the power and promise of play. Just a couple of days ago, reader and play pioneer, Richard Garcia posted on PlayGroundology FB that he was in Rio at the playground in question. He has met with people in the community, taken more pictures and we’re now trying to connect to talk about this place of play.

I am continually surprised by the creativity, beauty and originality of the work I encounter trekking across the interweb in the quiet, expectant hours of early morning and the sometimes weary arc of night. Last week, from out of the blue a Polish designer and artisan popped up sending PlayGroundology FB a message about his work. Turns out that Barnaba Wójtowicz-Szczotka makes incredible bespoke playground equipment and accessories.

ArtefaktyClick to enlarge

It’s the exchange and participation of others engaged and involved in the design and creation of public play spaces that makes curating PlayGroundology FB so enjoyable. Their posts and comments build on what I’ve been able to find. A great example is a video posted in the comment section earlier this week by Davies White Landscape Architect. The video provides a tour of the almost completed Dinton Pastures Country Park in England. Sit back and enjoy.

Occasionally, a post gets liked and shared at a rapid rate and really takes off. I have not really been able to determine what it is that makes these posts move as they do but in some way they catch the readers’ imagination. With 300 plus shares, 100 likes and over 52,000 views, the photo below outstrips anything that has been posted to date by a long shot.


If you are already a regular PlayGroundology FB visitor thanks for dropping by. If you haven’t yet had the chance, please check us out. The gallery is open 24/7, is updated 5 times a week and a lifetime membership is free. As an added bonus check Playgroundology FB’s likes for more great play related content on facebook.