Ai Pioppi: Human powered fairground; with good first aiders
August 5, 2015 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Forty years ago an Italian restauranteur, called Bruno, decided he liked welding and started making playground equipment for his customers' kids to play on. Today the entirely human powered - and rather scary - theme park of Ai Pioppi is the result. Reviewer Tom Scott escaped with a little more than grazed knees.

The park has its own Youtube channel - which includes this interview with Bruno. My Italian is not up to much - but I like the part where he scoffs at the reviewers suggestion a computer might have been involved in any aspect of the design. There is also a rather arty profile with English subtitles.
posted by rongorongo (11 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I love the European attitude towards playgrounds and things like this.

When I'm in Germany I regularly take the kids to a small park outside Frankfurt (Freizeitpark Lochmühle) that has a whole bunch of kid-powered rides like this, including a pedal-powered monorail that's 12' off the ground.

All it has is a seatbelt. No attendant to give you 10 minutes of instructions...nobody really watching it at all. Parents know how to be responsible and keep small kids off of it and/or stop them from falling out. Everyone has a great time and I've never seen anyone get hurt. Parents also wouldn't sue if their kid did something stupid and got themselves injured.

We should make playgrounds with a bit more adventure and danger in them. Others seem to agree.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:27 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Well it's all fun and games until a kid gets mangled - as happened at a seafront ride near where I live a few weeks ago.

Still he's at least going to have an interesting 'jaws' story if he ends up with a facial scar
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:17 AM on August 5, 2015

To add to the links above, there is also a nice, short documentary on Ai Pioppi on Vimeo:
posted by bigendian at 10:27 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Freizeitpark Lochmühle

I'm charmed by the mental image of a "free time park" -- not a full-featured vacation destination, but just someplace to go when you get a moment during the day. If I could go ride a merry-go-round or a ferris wheel during my downtown office lunch break, I'd be a much happier man.

Back on point, I've been decrying the easy-mode crappiness of American playgrounds since I was in elementary school. A year after I graduated sixth grade, the PTA raised money to knock down all of the looming pre-1980 wood-and-metal structures on the old playground, and replaced them with a bunch of not-too-high/not-so-scary PVC equipment that just didn't bring the challenge or thrills. I remember feeling so bad for the kids coming up who would never get to scale the 20-foot-high monkey bars, or play pirates on a huge wooden monstrosity with a real sliding pole and searing hot metal slide.

My mom and sister teach high school kids, and they've noticed over the years that the kids in their classes seem to get more and more physically uncoordinated by the semester, and I blame both dull/safe playgrounds and kids just not going outside anymore.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:09 AM on August 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

The highlight of each year in elementary school was the field trip to Gold Bar Park (or maybe Rundle Park, I can't be sure). The playground consisted of a massive wooden fort with bridges, ladders, and huge slides. The best one by far was the roller slide. This slide was a series of carpet covered rollers that you would slide down sort of like a conveyer belt. The rollers were perfectly spaced to catch fingers and hair. Even as a kid, I remember that this slide commanded some respect.

I've poked around on Google Earth and can't seem to find it anymore, so it's probably the victim of safety.
posted by flyingfox at 11:30 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

We had a small roller slide at my elementary school playground. The rollers were a hard rubber and pretty small. It was a lot of fun, expect that we easily found that you could throw a small handful of the pebbles that covered the entire playground on the slide as someone was coming down, and they'd instantly get stuck on that part and flip over/hurt themselves.

Then people would have to spend like 10 minutes cleaning rocks out of the slide before anyone could use it again, and then within 2 minutes someone would throw rocks on it again. Man, that slide was awesome.
posted by mayonnaises at 12:57 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the most dangerous thing that my kid saw at a park when he was little were the damn swans. Why they put swans in that pond, I'll never know.
posted by dejah420 at 1:48 PM on August 5, 2015

Strange Interlude: "I've been decrying the easy-mode crappiness of American playgrounds since I was in elementary school."

Good news! Playground structures in the US now come age-rated and there are WAY SCARIER playgrounds for older kids with more dangerous obstacles than anything from my wood-and-metal childhood (some of them are very American Ninja Warrior!). And they have a lot of cool features these days, and most cities of any size in the US have at least one adventure playground and at least one huge play structure that take up an entire playground area and have great exploration areas. There are also really cool accessible play structures for children with limited mobility! You should go play on some, they are pretty fun!

Here's a list of cool ones to flip through -- it includes a couple of older classics, but mostly new ones, even some with new "retro" wood-and-metal structures. (Accessible playgrounds are somewhat overrepresented -- they're not as widespread as this might suggest -- but they're getting more common every day! They just put one in about two blocks from my house.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:40 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, City Museum, therefore your argument is invalid. ;)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:48 PM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Man, I like the way that man works.
posted by carping demon at 10:22 PM on August 5, 2015

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