Around the world in 8 (of the coolest) playgrounds

4th February 2020

Words by Anna Whitaker // Header image by Matter Design

I once designed the house I wanted ‘when I grew up’. Ironic really as the house was basically a glorified indoor playground with a slide that went from the bedroom to the breakfast table. There was nothing grown-up about it, but now, in my 30s, I’m realising I’d probably love it just as much, if not more today (makes mental note to dig out drawings and find plot of land).

But instead of playful homes, today I’m swooning over the world’s coolest playgrounds. The ones I’ve been littering across Instagram and have been forcing me into serious tests of willpower as I hover over the ‘confirm flight’ button.

They’ve come so far from the slightly battered roundabout and graffitied underside of the climbing structure I remember at our local ‘rec’. Quite frankly, this is THE time to be alive (or a child at least).

The Five Fields Play Structure, Lexington, MA

The beauty you see above is The Five Fields Play Structure in Lexington, Massachusetts. Not only was this amazing timber design commissioned by the local residents for the kids in their neighbourhood, but they were all in on the idea that it should be a place to spark imagination and a love of nature.

Nagasaki School, Japan

Urrrm. Can I just go back to school now please? This amazing kindergarten in the Japanese city of Nagasaki was designed by Hibinosekkei as a multi-story hub for childhood education and general wonderment. What an amazing intention! This rope gym leads up from one of the indoor playspaces, right up to the roof, where kids are met with ocean views. Talk about nailing the early years.

The Land, Wales

I’m kind of obsessed with this idea and it probably won’t be long before we make the trip over the border to see what The Land has in store. It’s essentially a junkyard operated by volunteers who offer open access adventure play for 5-16 year olds. Kids can build dens, light fires, or paddle in the river, all the time getting to grips with the idea of risk. 

Pigalle Basketball, Paris

If this place doesn’t make you want to slip on your Nike’s and shoot some hoops, I don’t know what will. Sandwiched between two apartment blocks in the suburbs of Paris, this feast for the eyes was designed for the fashion brand Pigalle by creative agency Ill Studio in collaboration with Nike. It may be a few years old now but I’m still desperate to get myself down there. Maybe when the boys are old enough to get into a game.

Wallholla, Weidevenne, The Netherlands

What do you do when you have no space? You build up, up and away! This tiny footprint of a playground was designed by Lappset, experts in the world of play, with genius ideas for spaces that inspire and excite the whole family.  

Neobio Family Park, Shenzhen

This Chinese shopping centre has got it going OOOOONNNN. The Neobio Family Park is literally a pastel-coloured wonderland for kids, complete with slides into ball pits and colourful parasols that kids can explore while parents put their feet up (or drink a cup of tea at least) in the attached cafe. Sign me up.

Clemyjontri Park, Fairfax, Virginia

I’ve seen so many photos of this two-acre wide playground, which has been designed for all abilities to play side by side. Wheelchairs, walkers and braces are perfectly catered to, as are those with sensory or developmental needs, which can’t be met in regular playgrounds. Simple really, but so necessary. There are further plans for the 10 acres that surround it too. Watch this space…

Playscapes, Amman (and various)

This is such a wonderfully simple idea designed by two Jordonian architects to bring more play to their hometown of Amman. The Playscapes system is totally modular and super easy to assemble, meaning they can create ad-hoc playgrounds in cities, refugee camps and other places that lack public space.

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