Tag Archives: children

Russia

Doodles

Spelling lesson inscribed in birch bark, dated to the mid 1200s, Novgorod. Before the fall of the rake-men.

Architecture

A well designed playground

It’s old news to the residents of upper Manhattan, but this six-month-old playground in Morningside Heights seemed to be succeeding in many ways when I visited it recently. To be totally honest it looks like a lot of fun and full of the sort of structures I enjoyed as a kid. The multiple levels, ambiguous spaces that encourage imagination, and little side playgrounds seem to create a little paradise where kids can run free enough to feel free. 

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The park as seen from Morningside Avenue, near Columbia University and St. John the Divine.

But what is more interesting in terms of architecture is how the playground was developed: It’s a really good example of both community involvement and responsive government. The new, complex playground is a drastic improvement over the grimy 70s play yard it replaced, but the process took nearly a decade. In 1999, the Friends of Morningside Park began surveying residents, including those with children and those that wanted children, about what they wanted. They took that information, developed a master plan to restore and improve Frederick Law Olmsted’s original design. Using this plan, the neighborhood worked with the City through long-term activism to eventually get it built.

The whole process took ten years and a lot of gentrification happened in that time, but it’s still a great reminder of what is possible if a community organizes to make their common environment a little better. I think, like any good urban space, the results speak for themselves, so do be sure to go up and see it when you’re up in New York or have a look at some of the pictures in the linked blogs.