I am preoccupied by the ways play and games connect to the physical form of cities. Here’s one way to look at it: architects are influenced by the surprising new uses of existing constructions.
For example, there’s a connection between a swimming pool like this one…
Photo (cc) Mallix
…and this playground designed by Carve for the Melis Stokepark in The Hague.
It’s probably obvious, the connection is skateboarding. As brilliantly documented in the film Dogtown and Z-Boys, early skateboarders started playing in empty pools during the California drought of 1976. In doing so, a new style of skateboarding emerged. One that was less about speed and distance traveled (surfing but on streets, essentially) and more about stunts and acrobatics.
It wasn’t long before the pools were replaced or at least complemented by bespoke skateboarding architecture in the form of verts, half-pipes and the like.
Moving on to the aforementioned playground, I had the pleasure of talking with its principal designer, Elger Blitz, at This happened – Utrecht #11, where the project was discussed. It turns out Elger has a background in skateboarding and got started designing skateparks, such as the one below.
Elger pointed out to me that Melis Stokepark’s form is inspired by the form of skateparks. Carve was asked to design a playground that would be accessible to children with various disabilities, without excluding other children. The main form is shaped by the ramp, which allows children in wheelchairs to ride up and over it. But I imagine it would be equally fun to use it on a skateboard.
So there’s a line that can be drawn from Carve’s playgrounds, to skateparks, to the swimming pools in California, which ran dry because of a drought and were used without permission by youth on skateboards. The transmission of these urban forms happen between players and makers, and are sparked by improvised action. I wonder what other links between play and architecture can be uncovered.