playing to play
Creating Spaces for Play that Encourage Action, Reaction and Interaction
Public spaces for play and recreation are based on the relationship between humans and their surroundings. This project explores diverse potential interactions between users and play objects designed with no predetermined use, in which users’ creative experimentations with actions create experiences that let them take ownership of space.
In Mexico, parks and playgrounds often suffer from normativization, with users’ actions determined by a pre-established function given to the equipment and play objects. In response I propose a new playground in Mexico City where play has no specific agenda, is not functional and has no clear or known norms. Users’ actions determine the use and purpose of the objects and space, rather than vice-versa, altering their utilitarian, normative and functional use. The project reacts to park and playground design history from the early 20th century to the early 21st century, responding to designs by Aldo van Eyck, Isamu Noguchi, John Hejduk, Alexander Calder, Karyn Olivier and Studio DROOG.
This project proposes a public playground to occupy a long, rectangular empty lot located on a block in San Miguel Chapultepec, Mexico City, repurposing unused space to make it public. The surface of the park is slightly contorted:
it dips gradually from its ground-level sides to a slightly submerged center, creating a depression or U-shape along the length of the park.
The park’s short sides thus act as a “fence,” keeping users from chasing balls or other play objects into a busy street. Play objects are designed to reference existing models of playground equipment: slides, monkey bars, seesaws, etc, but here they are playfully distorted to de-familiarize them, creating hybrid objects liberated from any predetermined use. Many of these objects require more than one participant, as in the example of a see-saw, encouraging collaboration and interaction.
The designs in this project do not seek to re-formalize playground design, but rather to mix myriad ludic possibilities among play objects already existing in the collective culture, thus constructing multipurpose hybrids. These designs require users in order to “work” - when users interact with the objects, creating their own interpretations and interacting with others to build a shared understanding of the play object’s function, unexpected experiences and connections occur.
Active participation is required, demanding a greater level of attention than that typical of common play objects, leading users to greater self-awareness and consciousness of their presence, creating intimacy and unexpected tension between the object, the game and its users.
The objects are arranged in order to increase the possibilities of play and dialog among them, expanding the notion of participation. This project reflects on individual and collective courage, as expressed both creatively and socially, to create spaces with ambiguous and varied purposes in which users can interpret or reappropriate their playground and build their own understanding of themselves as part of a community.