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Pools connected to playgrounds

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.

Melis Stokepark

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.

(I’ve blogged and talked about the sig­nif­i­cance of the emer­gence of skateboarding’s con­tem­po­rary form before, for instance: Urban Pro­ce­dur­al Rhetorics and A Play­ful Stance.)

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.

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