Have you ever watched kids playing in the local playground and wished you could still have a go on the monkey bars or the swings?
Designers are increasingly responding to our desire to experience fun and playfulness in our urban environments and there is a growing trend to move play out of the playground and into our everyday public spaces. Playgrounds for big kids are now popping up in airports, university campuses, and public spaces around the world.
Bored waiting at the traffic lights? German students Sandro Engel and Holger Michel developed a version of the classic arcade game Pong for pedestrians to play with someone across the street as they wait for the lights to change.
Wish you could literally roll on the floor laughing? Visitors to London’s Southbank Centre Square rolled around in Thomas Heatherwick’s ‘Spun’ chairs during London Design Week.
HIK Ontwerpers’ “transfer accelerator” (AKA slippery dip or slide) offers Dutch commuters a speedy alternative to the stairs at Overvecht railway station in Utrecht.
Vienna’s city-dwellers can hang out at Flederhaus, a purpose-built public ‘hammock house’ in Vienna with views over a neighbouring park.
Argentinean artist Tomas Saraceno’s giant transparent jumping castle installation On Space Time Foam in Milan is like climbing on suspended clingwrap, three stories up in the air.
Many of these ideas are temporary installations designed to bring an ephemeral sense of playfulness and fun into our lives. But more permanent fixtures are also popping up in cities around the world. Adult playgrounds encourage exercise and social interaction and are much less formal than going to the gym. Custom designed fitness parks for older adults are also a growing trend.
While outdoor fitness equipment is a relatively common sight in Sydney we are yet to see play elements regularly integrated into our everyday environment. Is this likely to become a reality in Australia’s future? We certainly hope so. Why should the kids have all the fun?