Unity is the theme of the monumental playground towers at the Warren Trail head of the Joe Louis Greenway in Detroit, Michigan. The project’s vision document, which came about through extensive community consultation and engagement, inspired the design team at SmithGroup and Earthscape to consider, “how can we celebrate unity in a playground?”
The two playground towers mirror each other and between them, a circle forms to create something whole in a very tangible and literal way. The towers, with the connecting circle, create something that is bigger than the sum of its parts.
The towers make a bold statement. They can not be missed from the road and passers-by will inevitably make a double-take at their size and scale. The playspace will anchor the western Greenway and become a landmark destination where people will gather to play, picnic, exercise, rest, and celebrate.
Each tower offers a different play experience inside. One is significantly more challenging than the other and it will take perseverance to reach the highest point – the reward will be a spectacular view of the Greenway and an epic slide ride! The slide itself will be the tallest in the state of Michigan.
How can we reflect upon Joe Louis’s life through play without being literal? The playground tells the story through the play experience; his life was about perseverance and reward.
While the towers are the main focus of the playground, the play doesn’t stop there. An accessible pathway into the tower gives two sliding options: a hill-slide off the path or a slide from inside the tower’s first level. The play experience across the whole area is balanced between active play alongside ‘hanging out’ spaces. It includes a Giant Rope Swing, Log Jam climbers for both junior and senior play, a double bay swing set, wobble boards, rubber mounds, and plenty of spaces for seating and rest.
Joe Louis Greenway
The Joe Louis Greenway will be a 27.5-mile trail loop for biking and walking that will connect neighbourhoods and communities in the City of Detroit.
The Greenway is designed to solve real-world connectivity issues between Detroit neighbourhoods and tells the proud Black story of the City of Detroit and one of its most famous and inspiring citizens, Joe Louis. Though widely known for his boxing achievements, Joe Louis was so much more than an incredible athlete and civil rights leader. His legacy and values as a civic leader are celebrated in the new Greenway.
Two other Earthscape playgrounds in the Greater Windsor-Detroit area are located at Ella Fitzgerald Park (Detroit) and Mitchell Park (Windsor).