Winter time here. Grey skies. Ice and snow on the ground. Wood fire keeping things toasty inside. Sledding and skiing as daily fun-time activities. Not bad! Now of course in the southern hemisphere it’s sunny hot summer and I still have a winter’s worth of summery pictures and stories from our New Zealand – Australia trip to share. But in the meantime I wanted to share an interesting playground design that Leon Smith (my playscape brother) and I collaborated on last week. As a break from our “traditional” playscape projects we decided to enter an international playground design competition for a school in Thailand that serves Burmese refugee schoolchildren. An interesting and beautiful opportunity…

The competition itself was sponsored by the Go Play Project http://www.goplayproject.org/ They are an amazing group that builds play spaces in developing countries and whose motto is “We build playgrounds where there are none and we work with others to do the same…” YES!

The Go Play Project works with local, low budget materials (tires) and local builders to create colorful exciting structures and spaces. They were inspired by a friend and colleague of mine in the playground world, the late great Jimi Jolley.  Here’s some info on him if you want to check him out: http://www.hawaiiplaygrounds.com/JimiJolley.htm  He too built playgrounds from local and free materials – again mostly tires. Here is his how-to book on building playgrounds from tires: http://www.scribd.com/doc/20948584/HOW-TO-MAKE-PLAYGROUND-USING-TYRES

He was a unique character and I learned a lot about the community built process and about designing for play from him. I joined him on a playground build at a safe shelter for women and children in El Paso, Texas in 1998. While I had different ideas of what a playground should look like (trees, grass, flowers, mosaics, etc. vs tires) I was humbled at the end of the build to see that if you truly understand play and honor it as a designer you can create an environment out of ANYTHING and it will be great for children’s play and development. Jimi’s playground out of tires was GREAT and children flowed over the space in beautiful, meaningful, fun-loving ways. It was a total success, and a wonderful learning opportunity for a younger me just starting my new playscaping adventures…

So, it was a special opportunity for Leon and I to look back at Jimi Jolley’s ideas and inspiration and work on this design competition using…….TIRES!  We also tried to blend traditional Thai and Burmese building techniques and materials (thatch roofs, banana palm trees, bamboo!!), gardens, food forests, and more into a design that weaves in all types of play opportunities for children of all ages, including an adventure playground-inspired “Creative Construction Zone” where children can build their own play structures and spaces. Yeah!

Enough words. Take a peek: (click to enlarge)

What do you think?