When I was a kid growing up in Hangzhou, a city in southern China, I lived very close to a community park that I often visited after school. I especially loved playing on the slides and a grand tube. After I entered the fourth grade and had homework to finish, I continued to beg my… Read more »
When I was a kid growing up in Hangzhou, a city in southern China, I lived very close to a community park that I often visited after school. I especially loved playing on the slides and a grand tube. After I entered the fourth grade and had homework to finish, I continued to beg my mom to go play in the park, but the answer was surely “no.” “It’s dark, and no one is there,” she would say. “Play at home and go to sleep early.” Looking down at the park from the apartment window, it was dark and did look unsafe. Whenever I relive that memory now, I imagine a glimpse of light in that space of darkness—something to warm a child’s heart.
Over the past few decades, urban playgrounds have been innovated and diversified to serve the locals better. Since 2010, nonprofits have been sponsoring and initiating urban playground movements in the UK, calling generally for more playscapes in the community and for more innovative urban playground systems. Lately, playground lighting is being used creatively to encourage social activities and enhance attachment to special places—and, most importantly, to generate lots of fun in the community.
Creative playground ideas are mushrooming throughout the landscape design and arts fields. Online, you can find architectural playhouses that kids can travel in and out of, huge nets and slides that can be shared by five children at once, and enormous sculptures used both as playground equipment and decoration. A few weeks ago, an interesting article posted on the Innovative Playgrounds website sparked my interest. It detailed how several playgrounds successfully activate the local parks and help bring locals together using the magic of light.
Boston-based architects Howeler + Yoon offer a fine example of playgrounds employing LEDS. The firm’s “Swing Time” consists of 20 illuminated, ring-shaped swings designed in three different sizes. Each ring changes color as it rotates and swings, and then becomes white again when still. The idea is to provide more play opportunities in urban parks (playgrounds are not only for kids!), to enhance the general image of parks, and to increase social and communication activities. All age groups enjoy the design. People are curious and excited about it, and want to share it with each other. The swings become a medium through which people can bond emotionally and form a community.
The “Tilt of Light” LED seesaw project designed by Melbourne, Australia-based art and design firm ENESS is also inspiring. Two people are required to engage the seesaws, the colors of which intensify according to the degree they’re tilted. Both examples of lighted playground equipment have adapted responsive LED light technology to attract curious locals to play, and both arouse a sense of nostalgia. Their lighting effects and simplicity in form make the playgrounds employing them iconic destinations. “Swing Time” and “Tilt of Light” not only illuminate the spaces they adorn, but light up the smiles of those engaging them.
Image of “Swing Time” courtesy of Howeler + Yoon.