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Playground Heroes - 5 inspirational playspace artists

Over time, play spaces have come a long way in terms of design and aesthetics. We owe this evolution to master designers from all over the world, who have breathed life and beauty into play structures in their own inimitable style. In order to recognize and know more about these creative geniuses and his/her masterpiece, we created a special series called 'Playground Heroes.” For us, these maestros are nothing less than super heroes. They have revolutionized the way playspaces were perceived. Their designs opened up a world of new way of presenting play. Here’s our list of 5 super awesome and inspiring “Playground Heroes.”

1. Egon Möller-Nielsen

Egon Möller-Nielsen, born on May 9, 1915, was an architect and sculptor from Denmark. He is a hero who revolutionized playgrounds by fusing together art and play. A product of the Royal Academy of Arts in Copenhagen, Möller-Nielsen is one of the most important contributors to the Swedish Modernist Movement. He bridged the gap between art and play spaces by combining the autonomy-based language of modern sculpture and purpose of play. His creation aimed at encouraging people to accept abstract art. Unlike other designers who use symbolism or fictional characters to illustrate and animate play structures, Nielsen used abstract forms. These forms served as an ideal gateway for the kids to explore their imagination.

In the year 1940, Egon came up with an abstract play sculpture Tufsen, which was weaved with the beads of art, play and public space in such a way that it interacted with each other. Art that could be touched, climbed and crawled through became an important moment in the history of public spaces and designing. This gave birth to a new wave of design of play equipment that was made to be fun and appealing to its users.

2. Benjamin Dominguez

Benjamin Dominguez, (1894-1974) was a Mexican artist. Having studied painting at Academia de Artes Plastics of the University of Mexico, he started his career in the concrete arts. He was one of the few artists In Mexico to have complete knowledge of classical painting techniques. Dominguez is famous for his whimsical artistic and play sculpture concepts that bring alive imagination and create a world of fantasy.

At the age of 70, he created the famous and the much loved La Laguna, aka Monster Park, aka Dinosaur Park. This park has been very instrumental during the growing up years of the neighbouring kids. This theme based park is a fusion of life-size creatures popping all over the park. From one end, you have a whale smiling at you, and at the other end there is a sea monster rising from the sand and still if your heart asks for more, then maybe you could just say hello to the life-size octopus standing on the sand. The park has attracted many generations towards it and transformed the area into what it is today. Benjamin has blended his visions of fantasy into the reality of the park. The park symbolizes the beauty of how fantasies can be transformed into great learning.

3. Paul Hogan

In 1983, Paul Hogan, a Canadian was one of the founders of the Spiral Garden in Toronto, an art therapy program for sick children in hospitals. In 2003, he has also been nominated by The Ashoka Foundation as one of the 15 fellows in Sri Lanka, and was the only foreigner to bag the title as an outstanding social entrepreneur.

In 1994, the organization sent Paul Hogan to Sri Lanka to assess the situation of children traumatized by war and natural disasters. Here he came up with an idea to establish the Butterfly Peace Garden. The garden gives an opportunity to the Sri Lankan children affected by war and natural disaster to express their artistic creativity. At the garden you will be amazed to see art in various forms like painting, mask, theatre and music that has been created by young children.

4. Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was one of the most important and critically acclaimed sculptors of twentieth century. While studying pre-medicine at Columbia University, he took up evening sculpture classes in New York under the guidance of sculptor Onorio Ruotolo. He soon left the University to become an academic sculptor. Noguchi’s work is inspired by traditional Japanese art and biomorphic style of Surrealistic Art. He mainly created abstract art, largely made in stone. His love for organic and geometric forms reflects in his designs.

Noguchi believed in creating and enhancing public spaces through integrating art and sculptures in a common man’s everyday life. With this belief came into existence Noguchi Playspace, situated in Atlanta, US. This is the only playground that was completed during the lifetime of Noguchi. This playscape is an outcome of combining some of his earlier designs. Some of the interesting play elements in the park are the blue and green climbing blocks, a slide, and a stepped swing set to keep the kids engaged. There are also swings set at different heights to demonstrate the behaviour of a pendulum, and the spiral slide allows children to feel the effects of centrifugal force. What makes this playspace unique is that it helps children get familiar with shapes, colours and textures through its various elements.

5. David Rockwell

David Rockwell was born in 1956. When he was 12 years old, his family decided to move from Deal, New Jersey to Guadalajara, Mexico. This transition in his life made him discover vibrant markets, street life and public spaces. His interest in architecture led him into studying architecture at Syracuse University and the Architectural Association in London. David’s inspiration comes from theatre, public space, technology and wrought craft. He has often credited his early years in Mexico as being the influence in his designs. In 1984, he founded Rockwell Group that has been instrumental in creating unique styles, designs and projects that’s been inspired by theatre, technology and craft.

Though he has many designs to his credit, but the one that he is known for the most is his invention of “Imagination Playground.” Conceived and designed by Rockwell, this playground comes in a box. Unlike traditional playground that mainly focuses on developing children’s gross motor skills, Imagination Playgrounds is an interactive, transformable environment that allows the children to create their own playspace with sand, water and loose parts. Imagination Playground gives the children freedom to create their own space which not only stimulates the minds of the children, but also encourages them to explore their imagination.

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