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Too High, Too Fast, Too Fun: How America Destroyed The Epic Playgrounds...And How We Can Build Them Back Up

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Too High, Too Fast, Too Fun: How America Destroyed The Epic Playgrounds...And How We Can Build Them Back Up

  1. 1. Too High, Too Fast, Too Fun    •  How America Destroyed the Epic Playgrounds— And how we can build them back up.
  2. 2. The  playground  is  a  microcosm  of  everything  we   are.  Different  races,  different  religions,  different   socio-­‐economic  backgrounds  all  converge  in  the   same  place  with  same  goal—to  have  a  good  ?me.      
  3. 3. In just 20 years, we went from this But  while  the  sheer  number  of  playgrounds  have  increased  in   America,  their  excitement  factor  has  dropped  drama?cally.  It's  no   accident  that  this  drop  in  fun  factor  coincides  with  the  faEening  of   America's  children.                                                                                    In  20  years,  We’ve  gone  from  this…  
  4. 4. To This To  this…   From  1980  to  2010,  obesity  in  children  6-­‐11  went  from  6.5%  to   19.6%.  Teenage  obesity  went  from  5%  to  18.1%.   There  are  many  factors  aEributed  to  this  number,  but  the  loss  of  the   epic  playgrounds-­‐-­‐Torn  down  and  demolished  due  to  neglect,  lack  of   imagina?on,  and  overprotec?ve  safety  laws-­‐-­‐have  played  a  big  part.     How  did  we  get  to  this  point?  Let's  go  back  to  the  start.    
  5. 5. America,  Late  1800s   1880.  America  is  in  the  middle  of  the  industrial  revolu?on.   In  urban  centers,  people  are  living  in  cramped  quarters.     In  1900,  1.7million  children  worked  in  factories  working  on   average  12  hour  days.   The  Machine  Age,  much  like  the  Internet  Age,  is  turning  the   children  into  pasty  mush.  
  6. 6. •  sand   A  woman  named  Dr.  Marie  Zakrewska  took  a  trip  to   Germany,  and  saw  kids  from  all  sorts  of  economic   backgrounds  all  playing  in  the  same  plot  of  sand.    
  7. 7. •  sand   So  in  1885,  The  MassachuseEs  Emergency  and   Hygiene  Associa?on  (MEHA)  wheeled  a  giant  pile  of   sand  to  a  church  yard  in  the  North  End  of  Boston.    
  8. 8. America’s  First  Playground   •  Boston,  1885   1880s   Here's  a  pile  of  sound.  Go  nuts.  Like  proper   Bostonians,  they  called  to  their  pile  of  sand  as  the   “Sand  Garden.”  And  Boston  went  on  to  install  11   more  of  these  sand  gardens  for  immigrant  children,   eventually  changing  the  name  from  “sand  garden”   to  “playground.”    
  9. 9. First  Playground  Equipment     •  Chicago,  Ill.   1890s   In  1889,  Charlesbank  gymnasium   introduced  the  idea  of   playground  equipment.  Two  pole   ladders,  flying  rings,  hanging   ropes.  All  for  kids.  NY  built  one  in   1890  at  the  University  SeElement   in  Lower  East  Side.  Chicago  built   this  one  in  1894  at  Hull  House.    
  10. 10. Lower  East   Side,  1903   In  1903,  NYC  opened  Seward  Park   in  the  Lower  East  Side.       On  opening  day,  the  pent-­‐up  need   exploded,  and  20,000  kids  caused   a  near  riot  as  they  rushed  to  play   on  their  new  playground.      
  11. 11. Boston,  1909   1900s   In  1904,  Los  Angeles  built  a   playground  on  Violet  Street,  and   created  the  na?ons  first  Playground   Department.  35  ci?es  had   playgrounds  by  1905.  The  Playground   Associa?on  of  America  was   established,  with  honorary  president   and  vice  president  Teddy  Roosevelt   and  Jacob  Riis.      
  12. 12. Na?onal  Recrea?on  Associa?on   Established     •  Regarded  play  as  a  “fundamental  urge  in   human  existence,  scarcely  less  powerful  and   important  than  the  urges  of  physical  hunger   and  sex.”     1910s   So  we  have  physical  hunger,  sex,  then  play  as   the  most  important  urges  in  human  existence.   Breathing?  Must  be  fourth.      
  13. 13. The  first   Jungle  Gym   •  Winnetaka,  Ill.,   1920   1920s   The  Jungle  gym  was  invented  in  1920  by  Sebas?an  Hinton  in     Winneteka,  North  of  Chicago,  who  claimed  the  contrap?on     appealed  to  the  "monkey  ins?nct"  in  children.  Ironically,  he  was  a     lawyer.  It  was  replicated  in  playgrounds  across  the  country.     NY  had  more  than  800  jungle  gyms  alone.                                              The  original  is  s?ll  standing.        
  14. 14. The  Really  Tall  Slide   “Children  need  to  encounter  risks  and  overcome  fears   on  the  playground,”  said  Ellen  Sandseter,  a  professor  of   psychology  at  Queen  Maud  University  in  Norway.   “Climbing  equipment  needs  to  be  high  enough,  or  else  it   will  be  too  boring  in  the  long  run,”  Dr.  Sandseter  said  
  15. 15. •  1924   The  Girls  Need  to   Play,  Too   1920s   Playground  and  recrea?on  were  essen?al  for  the  new  immigrants  of  America.  They  mainly   focused  on  the  boys,  crea?ng  good  new  ci?zens.  But  the  girls  were  also  a  concern.     The  “...girl  living  in  tenements  and  working  in  the  shop  is  nervously  ?red  at  end  of  day,   home  is  unaErac?ve…She  goes  out  onto  the  street  and  to  the  cheap  theater,  whose   standard  she  possible  adopts  because  she  has  none  of  her  own,  or  else  she  goes  to  the   dance  halls.  Her  vitality  is  at  a  low  ebb.  [Author’s  emphasis]  She  takes  her  first  drink,  which   the  boy  in  order  to  show  his  gallantry  presses  upon  her,  and  so  she  takes  her  first   downward  step.”    
  16. 16. •  In  the  1920s,   America  went   to  war.  And   during  the   dras,  25   percent  of  the   young  men   selected  were   deemed  unfit     1920s   FIND  IMAGE  OF  WW1   [W]e  have  seen  for  the  first  ?me  the  na?on’s  child,  measured,  weighed  and   found  wan?ng...”  said  the  Na?onal  Federa?on  of  SeElements.  (“Study  of   Young  Girls,”  ca  1921)  Young  men  were  described  as  “incapable  of  effec?ve   service,  and  that  at  a  ?me  when  civiliza?on  hung  in  the  balance.”  (Lies,  1926)     Then  the  depression  came.    
  17. 17. During  the  depression,  The  WPA  Picked   Up  the  Slack,  and  Built  13,000   Playgrounds  Across  the  Country.       Aser  the  crash  of  1929,  there  wasn’t  a  lot  of   money  floa?ng  around  for  things  like   playgrounds,  but  when  the  WPA  was   established,  it  created  13,000  playgrounds  in   it's  first  five  years.  
  18. 18. But  for  the  New  Genera?on  of  American  Kids,  the   Playgrounds  They  Built  were  Boring       1940s   But  even  though  we  were  building  a  lot  more   playgrounds,  and  they  had  more  climbing  and   athle?c  elements,  the  kids  were  changing.  Kids   didn’t  want  supervision,  and  they  didn’t  want   just  swings  slides  and  climbing.  They  wanted   something  more.    
  19. 19. Enter  Adventure  Playgrounds   1940   In  1943,  Danish  landscape   architect  C.  Th.  Sørensen  no?ced   kids  liked  playing  in  junk  and   burned  out  buildings  from  the   war  more  than  the  standard   playground  equipment.    
  20. 20. Kids  playing  in  bomb  sites  and   burned  out  buildings—crea?ng   their  own  worlds.  So  why  not   create  a  safe  place  mimicking   that  experience?    
  21. 21. Kids  would  use  their  imagina?ons  along   with  their  bodies,  and  create  some  really   great  adventures.    
  22. 22. Abstract 1950s That  was  going  on  in  Europe.  In  America,   things  were  gevng  artsy.  1953,  a  company   called  Crea?ve  Playthings  started  an  offshoot   called  Play  Sculptures,  using  ar?sts  as   designers.    
  23. 23. The Art world starts to notice playgrounds 1950s
  24. 24. Garner  and  Ketcham  designed  the  first   popular  character  themed  playground,  the   Dennis  The  Menace  playground,  in   Monterey,  California  in  1952  
  25. 25. 1952  •  Monterey   Park,   California   Dennis  the   Menace   Playground.     1950s   It  included  some   very  interes?ng   rides—one  of   which  kids   referred  to  as   “the  spinning   crane  of  death”  
  26. 26. It  has  it’s  own  facebook   fan  page—but  it  has   7,000  fans.  And  they   remember  the  spinning   crane  of  death!  
  27. 27. In  the  1960s,  the  space  race  starts,  and  we  start  reaching  for   the  stars.  Walt  Disney  had  the  concept  of  “The  Weenie,”   which  draws  kids  you  into  the  park.  That  is  what  these  did.     Instead  of  building  a  statue,  put  money  into  a  themed   environment  that  commemorates  the  person  or  the  act,  but   gives  back  to  the  children  of  the  community—what  a  great   idea!  
  28. 28. •  La  Laguna,  San   Gabriel,  1965   1960s   In  the  1960s,  true  theming  really   begins.  This  one  in  California,  by   Mexican  ar?st  Benjamin  Dominguez,   was  made  of  concrete  and  had  a   great  nau?cal  theme.    
  29. 29. New  York  City,  1967     1960s   NYC’s  “Ancient  Playground”  1967   designed  by  Richard  DaEner  in   Central  Park,  which  was  based  on  the   theme  of  ancient  Egypt.  It  was  a     direct  response  in  NY  to  the  boring,   regimented  parks  that  Robert  Moses   built  in  the  earlier  era.    
  30. 30. The 1970s It’s  about  to  get  funky.     The Golden Age of Playgrounds
  31. 31. This  is  from  a  company  called  Game   Time,  out  of  Litchfield,  Michigan.  I  think   Gene  Roddenberry  might  have   something  to  say  about  the  design,  but  I   would  so  want  to  play  there.        
  32. 32.   •  La  Cienega  and   Olympic,  1975   1970s   From  Miracle  and  Jamison  in   Grinnel  Iowa.       A  Giganta  actually  stood  at   La  Cienega  and  Olympic  in   Los  Angeles.    
  33. 33. 1970s   Game  Time.  The  Mark  IV   Satellite  tower  is  just  an   explosion  of  color.    
  34. 34. The  people   love  it!   1970s   Another  from  Miracale  and   Jamison.  Ideally  Trouble   Free.  A  quote  from  the   director  of  parks  at  Brooklyn   Park,  Minnesota,  discussing   the  great  feedback  the  Astro   City  has  goEen.    
  35. 35. Slide  close-­‐up  
  36. 36. 1970s   The  70s!  I  don’t  know   how  much  fun  there   are,  but  they  look   amazing.    
  37. 37. 1980s   Then  the  lawyers  took  over.     Mass  Tort  Lawsuits  against  Asbetos,  Formaldehyde,  cars,    the  Dalkin   Shield—America  fell  in  love  with  Lawsuits  in  the  1980s.  -­‐-­‐And  on  the   playground,  climbing-­‐-­‐  Climbing,  heights,  was  the  biggest  target.  But   climbing  gives  people,  especially  kids,  a  huge,  perhaps  biggest  sense   of  accomplishment.    “Children  need  to  encounter  risks  and   overcome  fears  on  the  playground,”  said  Ellen  Sandseter,  a   professor  of  psychology  at  Queen  Maud  University  in  Norway.    
  38. 38. Seward  Park—In  1903,  20,000  Kids   Riot  For  the  Right  to  Play   Remember  Seward  Park  in   New  York,  where  20,000   kids  caused  a  near  riot  for   their  right  to  play?    
  39. 39. Seward  Park  Playground  Today   This  is  what  it  looks  like   today.    
  40. 40. All  being  torn  down.    
  41. 41. All  being  torn   down.    
  42. 42. Do not play on or around Kids  need  to  conquer  fear-­‐-­‐If  you  suffer  a  fall   before  age  of  9,  you  actually  have  less  of  a  fear  of   heights.  The  need  to  assess  risk.  They  have  been   doing  it  for  thousands  of  years.  And  we  are   stun?ng  them.  This  one  was  turned  into  art   project.    
  43. 43. There  are  many  elements   that  add  to  this:  The   sedentary  nature  of  TV   watching  and  video  game   playing,  large  por?ons   and  faEy  foods.  But  the   lack  of  fun  playgrounds   has  played  a  part.     We  have  traded  the   threat  of  lawsuits  for   obese  children.  Traded   video  games  for  higher   health  care  bills.        
  44. 44. It is up to us to create the playgrounds of the future—to merge art, play, social and digital to build the next generation of neighborhood play places.   But  It's  beyond  that.  The  idea  that  children  can  play  outside,  can  wonder,   and  and  dream  in  the  physical  world.  Even  though  we  are  crea?ng  fantasy   worlds,  they  are  far  more  real  that  the  worlds  of  Warcras,  Wizards  101,   and  everything  else  the  children  are  playing  in  today.     There  is  a  very  fledgling  movement  of  building  playgrounds  kids  want  to   actually  play  in.    
  45. 45. This  one  in  the   Netherlands-­‐-­‐It’s  like   something  right  out  of  a   Tim  Burton  Movie  
  46. 46. The  Peter  Pan  park  in  Kensington   Gardens  London  is  a  great  of   example  of  a  park  kids  beg  to  go   to-­‐-­‐Giant  pirate  ship,  teepees,   water  features,  rope  climbs.    
  47. 47. Budapest,  Hungary  
  48. 48. I  love  this  one  in  Alameda,   even  if  it  is  a  liEle  overboard.   See  the  guy  in  the  car?  That’s  a   security  guard.  The  slide  is  so   fast,  it  needs  it’s  own  security   guard.  I  appreciate  the  effort.    
  49. 49. .     Dual  slides  in  Montogomary,   PA—this  was  built  to  honor  a   mother  and  child  who  were   murdered  in  the  town      
  50. 50. Tom  OEernesses   “Bronze  Guy”  shows   the  crosssec?on  of  art   and  fun  
  51. 51. David  Rockwell,  the  man  who  created  Nobu  and   the  Mohegan  Sun,  raised  2  million  dollars  in   private  funds  to  build  a  collabora?ve  play  area   in  New  York's  south  street  seaport.  Climbing   nets,  big  sandbox,  pulleys  and  pulls.  Kids  work   together  to  get  tasks  done.  Excellent,  but…  
  52. 52. …  It's  also  very  expensive,  since  the   park  employs  "play  associates,"  to  help   kids  play  and  keep  them  safe.     Which  you  can  do  in  the  most   expensive  city  in  the  country,  but  won’t   play  in  Peoria.    
  53. 53. •  Paris   Giant  slide  in  Paris  
  54. 54. Pirate  shipwreck  park   in  Australia    
  55. 55. A  very  old-­‐school  Adventure   Playground  in  Berkeley,  Cal.  There   are  1,000  adventure  playgrounds   in  Europe.  There  are  only  3  les  in   the  United  States.    
  56. 56. Not Just for the Kids Walt  Disney  conceived  of  Disneyland   because  he  was  sick  of  taking  his  two   liEle  girls  to  the  merry  go  round,  while  he   sat  on  a  bench  and  fed  peanuts  to   squirrels.  He  wanted  to  join  in  the  fun.   Adult-­‐sized  playgrounds  are  equally   important.    
  57. 57. We  can  build  these,  and  get  the  kids   back  out  there.     •  And  make  playgrounds  that  both  adults  and   children  can  play  on.    
  58. 58. •  Slide   Billy  Jensen   If  you  want  to  join  the  fun:  @Billyjensen   -­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐    
  59. 59. •  Kids  who  live  a  half  mile  from  a  playground   are  nearly  five  ?mes  more  likely  to  be  a   healthy  weight  than  kids  without  a  playground   or  park  in  their  neighborhood.     October  2008  issue  of  the  "American   Journal  of  Public  Health"