oh, the ways that you'll grow!
THE FREE LIBRARY OF PHILADELPHIA: BLANCHE A. NIXON / COBB'S CREEK BRANCH
PROJECT TYPE: Open Design Competition, Team Entry
TEAM MEMBERS: Ted Bazil, Evan Litvin, Snezana Litvinovic, Nurit Nachum, Colby Rosenwald, Kyrie Yaccarino, Shimi Zakin
Children are uniquely gifted at re-imagining their surroundings as venues for play, regardless of their intended uses. Similarly, the best play spaces naturally offer themselves to “children” of all ages to appropriate, define and reinterpret. While current playgrounds typically feature mass-produced, nearly identical equipment, we break this mold by looking back to a more informal understanding of what a playspace can be. The proposed space safely encourages children to be the masters of their own environment by appropriating, defining, and reinterpreting it. In turn, this strengthens their perception, imagination and confidence in themselves. The playspace is a flexible setting where library programming and open play interweave at multiple scales, inviting community members to participate in the “theater” and continue developing the space.
RE-INTERPRETATION AND IMAGINATION:
Flexibility is central to this play space, both in terms of site organization and the way a child interacts with its elements. The large court in the center of the site, along with the amphitheater seating, can become a community gathering space, an outdoor classroom, a place for theatrical performances and film projections, or an open recreational space with a water feature in the summer. Interactive features such as tunnels, mesh walkways, cozy niches, a slide, and a climbing wall not only allow for prescribed uses, but also prompt adventurers to reinterpret, reinvent and re-imagine their environment. Responsive elements such as the melody wall and the giant abacus encourage children to observe, engage, experiment, and manipulate. The playspace’s attention to information extraction and creative re-construction helps children to gain decision making skills and the impulse to lead rather than follow.
The playspace promotes interactivity on three levels: between children and their environments; between children and their peers; and between children and their accompanying adults. In addition to their traditional role as guardians, the playspace invites adults to facilitate the exploration of patterns, to become peers in discovery, and to be the audience (or even the performers) for theatrical and educational events. Adults can even become the primary users of the play court, such as when library and neighborhood programs spill out into the space for workshops and community events.
Musical, visual and tactile patterned elements are scattered throughout the site to encourage children to learn through action and direct manipulation. Children learn about cause and effect, spatial relations, essential natural sequences, and improvisation. The Rubix wall, or the “Abacus”, is a series of colored wood blocks strung on steel bars, The blocks slide and rotate to create groups and patterns. An array of melodic tubes, and an over-sized xylophone can be explored individually or in groups.
Healthy, active children are better able to learn, focus, process information, and critically engage with their surroundings. This playspace safely provides a variety of environments and experiences so that children can hone their coordination and motor skills, explore their physical limits, and develop a better sense of risks and rewards. Free of any physical danger, the children design their own experience, and grow a stronger sense of self as well as a confidence about their environment.
The community garden and children’s herb garden take advantage of the site’s southern sun exposure, and serve as a quiet retreat and an outdoor classroom away from the bustle and commotion of the play area. The mural around the base of the building is given new life by being uncovered and restored. It now becomes a centerpiece for lessons in local history and community development.
The site beckons observers to consider the ecological features throughout the site. The large rain garden and adjacent community plaza double as a nature walk and environmental learning area. The placement of the water features in the play court demarcate the underground storm water flow, visually representing natural phenomena normally unseen. Similarly, the drip line of the ‘Truffula’ tree is preserved in the grading plan and materialized by the shape of the climbing wall.