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I Remember Cold Steel Bars & an Inch of Hard Rubber Below As A Kid
December 7, 2012 11:05 AM   Subscribe

MONSTRUM believes that playground design should be a reflection of the world surrounding us. We see the world as a place full of colour. We meet boys that like pink and girls that likes climbing trees. Why only play on a monky frame and a sandbox, when you can play in a moon crater or a submarine or a giant spider or an enormous snail or a Trojans horse or a rocket or an ant or a princess castle. The fantasy is infinite.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (38 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
That is, I am afraid, a Trojan Whale.

But it is a freakin' awesome Trojan Whale!
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:10 AM on December 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Great for the kids, but I have enough goddamn trouble getting my 3 year-old off a playground without having to chase her up a tiny spiral staircase, thanks!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:11 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some very cool stuff, but many designs seem impossible for adults to supervise. Maybe they don't have bullying in Denmark, but here these things could be nightmares as well as dreams.
posted by rikschell at 11:14 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like the snail/snake. I would have loved this stuff when I was a kid.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:23 AM on December 7, 2012


A dissent to the idea that non-imaginative playgrounds are boring - we had a bog-standard jungle gym in my grade school playground, but in our heads it was a combination rocketship/time machine that exploded every time it landed and we all had to run squealing across the playground to get as far away as we could so we wouldn't be hit by the shrapnel but then it put itself back together again when we had to leave and...

...um. I mean, the kids who don't have cool stuff like this aren't necessarily deprived urchins as such.

But on the other hand - I think i kind of want the giant snake thing or the castle town please
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:35 AM on December 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is kinda disingenuous to imply Scandinavian playgrounds are more innovative than North American. There are loads of phenomenally innovative playgrounds in North America. There might be a slight edge in architectural aesthetics in Denmark, but that's it.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:35 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Trojan Whale, unsurprisingly, did not fool Troy one bit. In fact, it probably freaked them the fuck out.

"What is this sad large beast gasping for air outside our walls?"

But, seriously, I'm with EmpressCallipygos, I think these are really neat -- but a part of me feels the same way about them I do about Lego sets. Nice enough, but plain blocks also work just fine, thank you.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:38 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is kinda disingenuous to imply Scandinavian playgrounds are more innovative than North American.

Er, where are you seeing that that was implied?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:39 AM on December 7, 2012


Kids build kingdoms out of boulders and trees. Add a steering wheel, and you have a truck, a boat, or a plane, or something else. I think playgrounds that are built to look like something specific are built more for adults than kids. Then again, I haven't surveyed the local playgrounds, mostly because adults there would think of me as some weirdo.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:50 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


It strikes me that none of these are as physically challenging as the playgrounds I grew up with - really tall climbing structures, lots of monkey bars, lots of balancing structures, geodesic domes with the top higher than the reach of the tallest adult, swings on which you could swing really high. These all look really nice, but they don't look like they support really active play like the ones I grew up on did. (And I say this as a former sluggish, fat little kid who nonetheless climbed and played like a mad thing on the playgrounds of my youth.)
posted by Frowner at 11:51 AM on December 7, 2012


Why only play on a monky frame and a sandbox...

Because they're cheap.

I wish this stuff was cheap. I'd love to see it near my house.
posted by gurple at 12:03 PM on December 7, 2012


...um. I mean, the kids who don't have cool stuff like this aren't necessarily deprived urchins as such.

Deprived? Not really.
But at the same time, a lot of the playgrounds (especially new and remodeled ones) I've been to in the last 3 years have structures by these folks which, while they make some fun stuff, gives every playground/park a sort of sameness.

Variety would be welcome.
posted by madajb at 12:10 PM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


A dissent to the idea that non-imaginative playgrounds are boring - we had a bog-standard jungle gym in my grade school playground, but in our heads it was a combination rocketship/time machine that exploded every time it landed....

When I was a kid, we had two playgrounds at the elementary school: a modern, colorful metal-and-plastic one (though not nearly as fanciful as these); and an older 50s-60s style wooden one. The former was horribly boring once the shiny wore off; you could really only do what the designer intended, everything else was intentionally so dangerous that no kid would try. The latter was much more fun; you could climb all over it (even the outside) and play on it in unintended ways*. These playground are really nice looking, but I hope they're not too restrictive.

It strikes me that none of these are as physically challenging as the playgrounds I grew up with - really tall climbing structures, lots of monkey bars, lots of balancing structures, geodesic domes with the top higher than the reach of the tallest adult, swings on which you could swing really high.

Yeah, the spider-web one would only allow a kid to climb about 1/4 or less of the height of the spider web I played on as a kid.

* Like the game where a bunch of kids would bucket-brigade playground pebbles to dump down the (open) slide, while other kids would simultaneously try to climb up the wrong way.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:13 PM on December 7, 2012


Yeah, these are cool, and yeah, kids will do fine with what they have. I taught a bunch of the neighborhood kids the old game of pitching quarters (used to be nickels and before that, pennies) last week, and they loved it! They all have gizmonic doodads, but they were drawn in by the simple challenge of getting the quarter as close as possible to the wall.
posted by Mister_A at 12:32 PM on December 7, 2012


When I grew up in the 70s, my little midwestern home town was already experimenting with unconventional playground equipment.

And we looooooved it.

Everything old is new again.
gurple: Why only play on a monky frame and a sandbox...

Because they're cheap.
And easy for bureaucrats to pick. Uncontroversially bland. But cheap & bland.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:42 PM on December 7, 2012


This* was my favorite place ON EARTH as a small child.

*Yes, specifically that very "rocket ship" climbing tower
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:46 PM on December 7, 2012


Yeah, the spider-web one would only allow a kid to climb about 1/4 or less of the height of the spider web I played on as a kid.

I guarantee you'd find a kid on top of that spider by the end of the afternoon. heh.

I personally think the rope/web climbing structures are better than the old-style steel bar ones.
For one thing, they feel a lot less stable, and you definitely need to use more balancing muscles to get up high*.


*Based on my extensive experience chasing a 3 year old up them
posted by madajb at 12:49 PM on December 7, 2012


a proper playground
posted by philip-random at 12:49 PM on December 7, 2012


I'm pretty sure I already climbed all this stuff at Burning Man.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:56 PM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


And easy for bureaucrats to pick. Uncontroversially bland. But cheap & bland.

Having gone through the nightmare of trying to pick a wall decal at my old job, you have to remember that playgrounds are probably built by committee and there will always be one person whose 'firm vision' means that anything other than the bland (or their vision, which may or may not change as they find things) is kicked out.

I left four months ago, as far as I know there is still no wall decal selected and that wall was painted for the decal 18 months ago).
posted by geek anachronism at 12:57 PM on December 7, 2012


Across the street from my house is pretty much the exact playground phillip-random has linked above. It's big, spans an area of 30X30 feet.

Over at the park with my kids. "Dad, you want to play grounders with us?" Me, "no". Them, "c'mon. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE." Me, inside voice, oh fuck me. Outside voice, yeah okay for a few minutes.

The rules of Grounders are thus: One kids, or if playing with a parent is it. Others scatter across the playground equipment. "It" needs to keep their eyes closed and progress across the playground while it attempts to tag a player. So yeah, basically Marco Polo but not in a pool and EIGHT FUCKING FEET IN THE AIR. Don't worry, that bark mulch down there looks pretty soft. Besides, falling off is not nearly as distinct a possibility as banging your head into something. Grounders comes when you suspect a player is off the play structure and on the ground, catch them and they're out. Don't catch them and you get berated by little kids claiming you screamed grounders just as a random attempt to get someone.

Most dangerous game ever invented. I forbid grounders while they are at school, an injunction I'm confident they followed for at least two days.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:06 PM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hmm. I didn't see any rusted-out coal gasification plants in the links. Rusted-out coal gasification plants is how they do playgrounds where I come from. Check and mate, Scandinavia.
posted by flechsig at 1:08 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It feels kind of like I've been misconstrued here - I hope it didn't come across like I thought these playgrounds were sucky and that my old "imagining your own stuff is way better" playground was superior. I mean, there is truth to the argument that giving kids more general shapes instead of specific ones gives them more free reign to imagine them into things, but....they're gonna do that no matter what you give them. The kids who are on that giant spider thing are probably imagining even weirder tripped-out stuff around it, and the "play castle" where the creators are speculating kids can have snowball fights is probably being used by some kids as "okay, see - this round thing here, let's say this is, like, a pie machine, and you turn it and it shoots pies out the front -- and so inside can be where we unpack all the fruit for the pies, and - oh, no, wait, we're shooting pies AT someone, yeah...."

Kids generally do okay with whatever you give them. I loved my old beat-up playground. I would have loved this stuff for entirely different reasons. It's all good.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:10 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I did some research on playground design last year. The playscapes blog is the best I've seen at showcasing rad / alternative playground design. There's some amazing stuff out there. I don't think there's any conclusive evidence to say that the 'adventure' playground is better/more fun than the standard mass-produced playground, but I do agree that something built for a single purpose is less inviting than something that can take on many different imaginings. But what do I know? I'm an adult.
posted by Enki at 1:11 PM on December 7, 2012


As a kid, I would have enjoyed the chance to play on/around/with most of these.

The rocket put me in mind of this, which is in Deer Creek Park in the St. Louis suburb Maplewood.

Ideally, a playground could combine some of these more fanciful ideas with the cheaper/more traditional fare like monkey bars, sandboxes, etc.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 1:42 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nat, should I be adding you to my contact list as a neighbor?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:58 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


As long as we are pointing out that whales are not horses, roly polies ( rolies poly? ) are not ants.
posted by RobotHero at 6:42 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kid Charlemagne, that depends on where you live, and your definition of "neighbor." I still am in the St. Louis area (south side), but not nearly as close to "Rocket Park" as I used to be.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 8:31 PM on December 7, 2012


Keith Talent: Man, I remember playing a version of grounders when I was in grade 5. We didn't keep our eyes closed though, you just dropped down to the ground to test if you were faster/smarter etc then the person on the ground. I think, it was a long time ago.

Nat: You mean like the classic rocket ship with the ball on the end? We had one of those at my school for a long time, I think they eventually took it out due to safety concerns (Or possibly it was getting old, I have to imagine that they'd eventually rust away).
I never did figure out why the steering wheel was in the ball instead of the ship.
posted by Canageek at 8:36 PM on December 7, 2012


Canageek, I think I know the sort of the playground rocket you're describing, but it's different from the one I was referring to, which can be seen here.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 9:11 PM on December 7, 2012


What a ripoff. Sure, there's the novelty of "Hey let's all climb through the giant head," but that's once. One time. In a community playground that doesn't seem to have many other alternatives. Boring and old news within a fortnight.

Old-fashioned steel bars allowed for a lot more free association. I'm a little sorry for the children who grow up being told exactly how to view everything in their lives.
posted by Graygorey at 10:55 PM on December 7, 2012


also, when I was a slightly older kid (12-13), we would have roman candle fights after dark in the local elementary school's "adventure" playground. tremendous fun. one kid referred to it as playing World War 2. I don't recall any serious burns.
posted by philip-random at 11:04 PM on December 7, 2012


this is why I could never be a parent.
posted by philip-random at 11:05 PM on December 7, 2012


These look like lots of fun.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:04 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


These playgrounds look amazing. The sameness that madajb points out as characteristic of NA playgrounds is something worth challenging. I like the idea that playgrounds could and should look differently.

(Of course, I challenge the idea that these playgrounds "reflect the world around us." Although I wish a Trojan Whale did so.)
posted by Catchfire at 8:27 AM on December 8, 2012


I do remember in my home town there was a merry-go-round that was built from material donated by the mine. It was completely massive, and instead of the solid disc like you usually see, it had a bunch of 4"x4" wooden beams radiating outwards. So to get it up to speed, you'd push it like Conan pushing the Wheel of Pain, and if you tripped when it got too fast, you stayed down so the beams wouldn't crack you in the head.
posted by RobotHero at 10:39 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I found a picture of it. It always seems bigger when you're a kid, of course.
posted by RobotHero at 10:52 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I would say that in Flin Flon, "made from scrap mining equipment" pretty much did "reflect the world around us."
posted by RobotHero at 11:31 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


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