Mix San Diego sunshine, 110.5 tacos, landscape architects, and a bunch of Earthscape playground designers and you’ve got a recipe for awesome! ASLA 2019 was another outstanding experience. Not only did we escape the dreary November weather, we also reconnected with colleagues and collaborators from the U.S. and beyond.
Inside the convention centre, hundreds of landscape architects, designers and students stopped in at our EXPO booth to talk play. This year, we featured a piece that will be installed in 2020 at Georgetown Day School (GDS) in Washington, DC. The rock outcrop play sculpture is part of a larger playground narrative of a fallen tree in the mid-Atlantic forest. The sculpture is an abstract representation of rocks that have been dislodged by the commotion. The angles of the sculpture create planes of play and provide unique interior spaces filled with nets and ropes. The playground sculpture was a showstopper on the EXPO floor as a one-of-a-kind feature, just as it will be at GDS. The rock outcrop sculpture was an alluring challenge for many booth visitors of all ages. The result was an Instagram sensation!
Explore the Floor
On Saturday afternoon, we hosted a keen group for the Professional Practice Network “Explore the Floor” session on Children’s Outdoor Environments. About 30 participants took part in a thought exercise as a mock team of designers tasked with designing a unique play structure for the San Diego Zoo.
The design brief called for a special play sculpture that was themed around the zoo’s animals, but also told a meaningful story. Nathan Schleicher sketched some of the group’s playground ideas in real time. Meanwhile, playground designers Laura Williams and Janelle Zwart explained the process and stories behind some of our recent playground projects.
Design by Hand, Build by Hand
On Monday, Nathan led an education session, Design by Hand, Build by Hand, alongside Gord Macdonald (Heritageworks) and Andrea Mantin (Brook McIlroy). It received rave reviews: “It was the most inspiring session of the conference,” as one attendee noted. The session discussed hand crafting as a thread that authentically connects us to tradition and to ourselves. We become active participants in design when we begin be hand-sketching ideas, which continues when we build by hand. Each presenter offered perspectives on the importance of unique and authentic materials for creative public play spaces.
Nathan summarized the session like this:
“When we choose to use materials thoughtfully and authentically, we have the potential to create spaces that are timeless – unique spaces that fit the unique circumstances of a particular client, place or group of users. I think there is something special about handmade things that makes them easy for us to relate to. First, there is the nature of the materials themselves that we just want to reach out and touch. Second, there is that connection we feel (whether conscious or unconscious) to their makers, and to the history of their craft.
Handcrafting is not always going to be the easiest way to do things. In fact, it is almost always simpler and cheaper to buy machine-made parts from a playground catalogue. But, I think there is room for both approaches. As designers and makers of things, we each encounter opportunities in our work to embrace more or less hand craft. The goal, I think, should be to continue to strive towards finding the right balance of these things in our work, whatever that may look like.”
We look forward to ASLA 2020 in Miami!