Recreate: New Grounds for New York’s Playgrounds
Martha Thorne, executive director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, contends that just as museums were the commissions of choice for architects at the end of the twentieth century, the coveted assignment of the future could well be the urban playground. While New York gave the country its first permanent playground in 1903, over the last century the city went from playground pioneer to philistine. Now, with architects like Michael Van Valkenburgh, David Rockwell and Frank Gehry turning their attention to Manhattan’s swing set, New York may be poised to prove Thorne right. The timing couldn’t be better.
American culture in the early twenty-first century has constricted children’s play as never before, with a combination of technology, educational shifts, increased competition and parental fears. There is simply no time for the chaotic, unstructured fun of the playground anymore. And yet increasingly scientists are revealing that it is precisely this type of child’s play that provides the social and intellectual abilities needed to succeed in life. As Psychology Today’s editor-at-large, Hara Estroff Marano, quips: “Play is the future with sneakers on.”