The Berkeley Adventure Playground

16/09/2013 7:07
I was recently reading a great piece in the the American Landscape Architecture magazine about the Berkeley Adventure Playground. It operates in the style of those adventure playgrounds that were quite common in Europe after the war, but now have been dumbed down because of the ever present spectre of potential liability or eradicated completely as inner city real estate prices boomed.

The City of Berkleys’ website indicates that, ‘The Adventure Playground at the Berkeley Marina was opened in 1979. It is a wonderfully unique outdoor facility where staff encourage children to play and build creatively. Come climb on the many unusual kid designed and built forts, boats, and towers. Ride the zip line or hammer, saw, and paint. By providing these low risk activities Adventure Playground creates opportunities for children to learn cooperation, meet physical challenges and gain self confidence. Pictures of a fort building project. The concept for Adventure Playgrounds originated in Europe after World War II, where a playground designer studied children playing in the “normal” asphalt and cement playgrounds. He found that they preferred playing in dirt and lumber from the post war rubble. He realized that children had the most fun designing and building their own equipment and manipulating their environment. The formula for Adventure Playgrounds includes Earth, fire, water, and lots of creative materials.’

The playground has strict codes for childrens’ participation and play as well readily defining the adults role as play facilitators, something that is more often not the case at other similar playspaces.  The website is a great source of information about other US adventure playgrounds and even contains a link to an American National Public Radio show featuring sound-bites taken from a report.

I’m not even going to discuss the possibility of Australia embracing this type of playspace, way to many naysayers, helicopter government bodies and rabid insurance companies for it to be anything other than an idea.   

Tess Michaels