In a former quarry in southern New Jersey, a massive Pteranodon playground sculpture welcomes children and families to play outside of the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park & Museum. The world-class destination park, a part of Rowan University, contains thousands of fossils from the Cretaceous Period — the heyday of the dinosaurs.
How was the Pteranodon selected as the playground feature?
Many ancient creatures stomped and roared into our early conceptual sketches. As the creative team imagined all the play possibilities, this concept’s shape and pose emerged as the top choice. As the wings stretch out so do the opportunities for unique play affordances.
Pteranodons are flying reptiles, not dinosaurs, though they share common ancestors. Their wingspan was over 23 feet (7 m) wide! The enormous playground sculpture is more than double its actual size but perhaps much less threatening; Pteranodon loosely translates as “flying toothless” so maybe there’s nothing to fear?
The choice of this species extends the stories of the museum beyond the indoor exhibits. It is not a duplication, rather a continuation of the message that many incredible creatures lived alongside the dinosaurs.
As if swooping into the water, seen as blue playground surfacing, the Pteranodon happily scoops up sea life like the fish-shaped wobble boards. The water-to-land story continues on to nature play represented by a leafy Log Jam, Log Pile, and hill slide resembling beach grasses or driftwood on the water’s edge.
Alongside Gallagher & Associates, the design collaborators also included the Museum Director, Dr. Kenneth Lacovara, a paleontologist renowned for his discovery of one of the largest land animals ever to have existed, Dreadnoughtus schrani.
Lacovara wrote in his book Why Dinosaurs Matter: “We have become the asteroid of our age. The dinosaurs had no choice and played no part beyond dying in the unraveling of their world. This time, it’s different. We can see it coming and we have a choice.”
Thoughtful sustainability was an earnest choice of this collaborative team. For Earthscape Play, our motivation to be wood-forward and eco-conscientious fully aligned with the greater mission of the project.
The playground is a gift to the community in the hopes it will draw visitors of all ages and inspire future paleontologists!