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Designing & Building the Architecture of Play

Thursday, December 8th, 2011 8:56 am by Paul Neseth
Planning for Oaxaca 2012 is well under way.  Just today, we received an email from our friends in Oaxaca asking about materials we’ll need in March.  “We need a rough estimate of the bamboo that you will need. Diameter?, length?, quantity?” they asked. 
Bamboo? That sounds interesting, but for what? you might wonder.  Following several months of discussions with the San Pablo Etla community about ongoing goals for the site, the availability of resources, and the individual benefits of different projects, the decision to design and build an eco-playground was made.  While there were a number of good projects to choose from, in the end, the playground was chosen for three reasons:
  • It allows for a high degree of creative liberty. (that’s good for us)
  • It fills a need for recreation & play spaces for kids.  (that’s good for them)
  • And, it can be accomplished within our short – 1 week! – workshop timeframe. (that’s good for everyone)
A couple of things I've noticed about kids and architecture make me especially excited about designing and building a playground for kids.  The first is the honesty by which kids experience architecture. While adults have filters for what they “should” think, kids are unencumbered by social norms and respond openly to their environment. Kids know what they like and are refreshingly honest in their response. The second is that kids are drawn to discover and when it comes to architecture, the best spaces are those that lend themselves to discovery over time.  Whether a tree, hay loft or urban back alley, the limitless variation of surface, form and structure offers a rich environment for kids' developing minds. (I'll have more thoughts on that in the coming months.) In the meantime, I'm thrilled to partner once again with the community of San Pablo Etla, in the foothills of the Sierra Norte mountains, and anxious to lead a group of young architecture students as we design and build the architecture of play. 
- Paul

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