For us, design refers to what a playstructure looks like as much as it does to the play value built into it. We simply cannot design one without the other. Play value is what creates return visitors. That’s why we design play environments to be fresh and exciting upon every visit. Go here to view and request a copy of the 2021 PLAY Book.
Deliver a hive of activity that sparks the imagination, facilitates discovery and lends itself to new adventure. See a few of the signature playground designs from our 2021 PLAY Book in action below.
Earlier this year, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) awarded more than $100,000 to 17 outstanding students for its 2020 scholarship season. The scholarships and fellowships support the next generation of designers by rewarding superior student performance, encouraging diversity, supporting original research and assisting students with unmet financial need.
One of those awards is the Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship, which was created by Cofounder and Chairman of Landscape Structures, Steve King, FASLA, and the inventor of the continuous play concept.
The purpose of the scholarship is to recognize a student who has high potential in the design of play environments. This student must show an interest in the value of integrating playgrounds into parks, schools and other play environments and understand the significant social and educational value of play. Key qualities in the student receiving the Scholarship are creativity, openness to innovation, and a demonstrated interest in park and playground planning.
This year’s recipient of the Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship is Allyson Fairweather. This past May, Allyson received a Master’s of Landscape Architecture from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and is working part-time at Wright Ostermier Landscape Architects. We were happy to sit down with Allyson earlier this summer to hear more about her interest in landscape architecture, and the project she submitted as part of her scholarship application.
Last spring, Allyson took a research class and was interested in studying if there was a relationship between an adult affinity for nature and how much time that adult spent playing in nature as a child.
“I was excited to discover that there is evidence to suggest that children that play outdoors in nature exhibit more environmentally responsible behaviors, greater nature inquiry, great awareness of ecological process and greater environmental stewardship,” Allyson explained.
In her research, the term “nature playscape” popped up a lot. She learned that a nature playscape is an outdoor play space that is specifically designed to connect children to the natural environment and included elements such as water, plants, soil and incorporated wild life.
“As a child, I played outside all the time,” Allyson shared. “I was always on my hands and knees in the dirt playing with bugs, collecting flowers and leaves, and running around in my parents’ garden. I have more memories of that than I do hanging out on a swing set. And now as an adult, I love the outdoors. So that’s what sparked my interest in this subject.”
Through her connection to adjunct professor and Principal at Wright Ostermier Landscape Architects, Emily Wright, Allyson was made aware of a playground redesign project at The Bement School, a small, co-ed day and boarding school for kindergarten through grade 9 in historic Deerfield, Mass. The school, nestled below the Pocumtuck Range and flanked by the Deerfield River, has a beautiful, rural environment. Their existing playground was outdated and disconnected—scattered throughout campus. And upon further conversations, Allyson learned that the playground equipment wasn’t challenging enough for the range of students using it.
Allyson met with the playground committee—two school administrators and a teacher—a few different times. Initially, she visited the site to understand the space. Then she held two workshops—one for the playground committee and a second one for a small group of students in grades 3, 4, 5 and 7.
“The ultimate goal of these workshops was to understand how the play space was used, what the school community liked or didn’t like, and their vision of how it could be improved,” explained Allyson. “We prompted the adults with questions for discussion, but for the students we planned a more interactive exercise using a printed map of campus and inspirational photos. The students used stickers to vote for favorite pictures of nature play spaces.”
Allyson explained that the kids’ favorite photo was a playstructure embedded into a hillside because it appeared challenging and the students could imagine many creative ways to play there.
“A large part of this project was engaging with The Bement School community,” Allyson said. “They loved being a part of this project and kept asking when we were going to come back.”
After compiling all of the feedback into a report, Allyson started laying out the design of the nature playscape.
“One of the first things I did with this design was start with a continuous accessible path that circulated through the entire play space to create a boundary that unifies the play area. I tried to accommodate a range of ages and abilities in the play equipment. We imagined the playground would be created out of locally sourced black locusts because it’s really strong, sturdy wood that doesn’t splinter.”
Of course, they were tasked with blending the nature-inspired elements with more traditional playground features like foursquare and basketball courts, and swings. They included those elements but oriented them at angles that give different views of the soccer fields, the play area and the surrounding landscape.
“The committee wanted to include a tire swing as it helped demonstrate one of The Bement School’s core values, collaboration,” Allyson explained. “Older kids help younger kids up onto the tire swing so it presents an opportunity for different age groups to interact and build friendships. We really appreciated their observation and positioned the tire swing in the space between two different play zones so both age groups can meet in the middle.”
In addition, it was important to include quiet areas for older kids. Picnic tables and boulders were positioned throughout the play space to offer hangout spaces. Integrated plantings, boulders and rain gardens were woven throughout the play space to extend learning to the playground.
“We presented the nature playscape to The Bement School in January 2020, and they loved it,” said Allyson. “They hope to invest in the project in the future.”
We hope to see this project come to fruition, and to see what types of playscapes Allyson completes in her future career. Congratulations, Allyson, on your scholarship!
For us, design refers to what a playstructure looks like as much as it does to the play value built into it. We simply cannot design one without the other. Play value is what creates return visitors. That’s why we design play environments to be newly fresh and exciting upon every visit. Go here to view and request a copy of the 2020 PLAY Book.
Deliver a hive of activity that sparks the imagination, facilitates discovery and lends itself to new adventure. See a few of the signature playground designs from our 2020 PLAY Book in action below.
Turn your destination playground into a legend. By design. Contact us to get started on your next playground design.
Planning a playground requires consideration for children of allabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all playgrounds to be brought into compliance. Since the ADA requirements have come out, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) have provided written guidelines for accessibility compliance. ASTM F1487-05 Standard is a document that provides specific playground/play equipment accessibility guidance.
The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board has also authored a guideline that is the standard of practice for determining compliance with the ADA.
Legally, the ADA requires that “each service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity when viewed in its entirety, be readily accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities.” This law covers “both indoor and outdoor areas where human constructed improvements, structures, equipment or property have been added to the natural environment.”
Accessibility law only requires that comparable experiences must be provided for all. If there are several slides and two or more swings, it is considered accessible if children with disabilities can use one of the slides and one of the swings. To learn more about the difference between accessibility and inclusivity,click here.
Aside from the regulations put forth that determine how to design an accessible playground for children of varying mobilities, there are many actions a planner should take to ensure their structure is truly inclusive. Inclusivity on a playground can be witnessed when children of all abilities can play together and participate equally- not separately and on their own. A well-designed playground incorporates the aspects of inclusive play to blend seamlessly.
Welcome back to the second installment of our educational series on how to create a community splash pad! The last post focused on items to be accomplished in the pre-planning stage. This week we will be focusing on the goals of the splash pad and its development.
By creating a list of goals, planners and decision makers can refer to the objectives they set in the beginning to re-evaluate their choices to ensure they meet the goals they originally set out with. The goal of a Master Plan is to provide community residents exceptional open space, park land, facilities and programs to splash pad users.
The following goals and objectives are intended to provide an operational framework for future decisions related to provision of parks and recreation.
Create a Sense of Community and Belonging
Offer programming that is targeted to families and those residents without support services.
Celebrate the community through participation in festivals, community functions and events.
Support and encourage new developments to include areas for active and passive recreation.
Provide parks and recreation facilities that are of the highest quality, that preserve open space and history, are well maintained and that are accessible to all residents of the community.
To create a community of healthy residents by providing opportunities that promote and encourage active lifestyles.
Provide recreation programming and facility opportunities that meet the needs and interests of the entire community.
To use existing community resources efficiently and to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.
To build a city-wide system of parks connected by trails and greenways to provide both active and passive recreation opportunities.
To enhance the landscape character and aesthetics of parks to heighten the experience of the spray park user.
To increase the accessory services and facilities available to the park system use in the way of adequate restrooms, water fountains, concessions, shades areas, playgrounds, and other accessory services or facilities.
Clearly define the goals of the project (i.e. public health, revenue generation, community asset, etc.) and frame public discussions, budget numbers and designs in terms of stated goals.
Design the splash pad so that capacity aligns with projected use and revenue goals. Don’t cap users at a much lower number than the official capacity of their splash pad for safety.
Ensure access issues such as parking are considered early in the design process.
Plan for expansion and new features (i.e. install more ground sprays than will initially be used and buy water features that can be replaced or exchanged).
Explore opportunities to develop splash pads near other public amenities such as parks, pools, picnic areas and community centers.
Ensure adequate seating in shaded areas for adults supervising splash pad users.
Install mechanical and electrical equipment on concrete surfaces and insulated from dust and dirt.
Important considerations during the planning process:
Within Park or Recreation District
Proximity to similar neighboring facilities
2. Location and Availability of Parking
Is there sufficient parking?
Is there van or bus parking?
Is the parking shared with other activities?
3. Location and Availability of Restrooms and Concessions
Are restrooms included?
Are changing areas included?
4. Existing Utility Services (Water, Sanitary, Storm and Electrical)
Are existing utilities on site or nearby?
5. Nearby Amenities and Facilities (Playground, Athletic Fields, Mini Golf, Courts, etc.)
Are there nearby facilities that will complement the sprayground? Or negatively impact the sprayground?
6. Neighborhood Connectivity, Bicycle Routes
Connectivity to nearby regional bicycle or multi-use trail systems.
To learn more about Aquatix splash pad and water play products, visit their website.
A well-rounded playground is not complete without the addition of sensory play elements. Sensory play adds valuable play experiences to a playground through beneficial opportunities for learning and socializing. Proper sensory play can help children develop problem solving skills, express emotion, promote empathy, and instills lasting confidence. Not all sensory play is created equally- playground planners should ensure that their sensory play equipment is inclusive to children of all abilities, both physical and mental.
Many children living with sensory processing disorders or autism may find socializing, communication, and imaginative play challenging without the proper support. Through sensory play, these children can feel included to explore and discover new experiences without fear or exclusion.
Landscape Structures Inc. offers a variety of sensory play equipment for every project:
It’s National Playground Safety Week, and there’s no better time to read up on some of the most important aspects of playground safety: audits and maintenance! Understanding the difference and the components of the two can help you create a safe, up to date play space for all ages and abilities!
Check us out on playlsi.com to read more about staying safe on the playground!
Goal: Engage with citizens to find the right design to honor the community and local heroes while revitalizing the underutilized space into an eye-catching destination to be used for years to come.
Solution: Community members, Denver parks and Recreation, and Landscape Structures Inc communicated and collaborated to come up with the design of Paco Sanchez park featuring a custom microphone component to pay homage to local DJ Paco Sanchez while promoting health and wellness within the community through play. An elevated bridge to the tower allows children and adults of all abilities to experience structure. This created a park environment where locals and people outside the area would be drawn to its unique design and functionality. The success of the park has become an example for other areas to take note of for how to keep communities active.
Solution: The giant 1950’s microphone-inspired tower heralds the horizon, but the built-in play value is what really makes this park honoring local radio DJ Paco Sanchez truly extraordinary. Brilliant colors and bold presence aside, it’s the imaginative use of the musical references that do the hard work of delivering dynamic play. Notes and scales offer footholds. Sound waves create netted climbing adventures. Chimes travel with kids as they run across the bridge.
Read more about how the City of Denver Parks and Recreation Department engaged the community and its culture through the transformation of Paco Sanchez Park.