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The Playground Magician: Isamu Noguchi

Most children know Willy Wonka, the character from Roald Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka is known for his quirky, creative and unique chocolate factory that’s nothing less than a fantasy-land, with a melted chocolate river, trees sprouting jelly apples and bushes laden with lollipops. A creative genius from the world of art and design who mirrors Wonka's creativity and imagination through his work is Isamu Noguchi, a famous Japanese-American Artist and Landscape Architect. Through his work, Noguchi aspired to bring art into the daily life of common people.

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was a master of what he called “the sculpturing of space". He saw play areas as sculptures that serve a function. According to him, “when an artist stops being a child, he stops being an artist.” And Noguchi's work is a reflection of his beliefs and ideologies. He challenged the traditional playspaces that specifically directed kids to perform single acts like swinging, sliding, etc. He believed that children are stimulated by interesting, abstract forms and colours that give them freedom to play according to their own fantasies, rather than in a set form. Isamu Noguchi’s playscapes were designed to encourage improvisation and creative interaction.

In his lifetime, he has built many remarkable designs. Here are our top 3 picks of playgrounds designed by Isamu Noguchi:

1. Noguchi Playscape, Piedmont Park, Atlanta

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Situated in Atlanta, US, is a popular Noguchi Playscape. It is the only playground that was completed during the lifetime of Noguchi. This playscape is an amalgamation of some of his earlier designs. The distinctiveness of Piedmont Park’s Playscape is that it helps children get familiar with shapes, colours and textures. The space has many play elements; blue and green climbing blocks, a slide, and a stepped swing set that keeps kids engaged. Swings set at different heights demonstrate the behaviour of a pendulum, and the spiral slide allows children to feel the effects of centrifugal force.

2. Odori Park, Japan

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Sapporo, the fourth largest city of Japan, is famous for Black Slide Mantra, a sculpted work created by Noguchi. Situated in Odori Park, it is installed in such a way that it enjoys good visibility from all directions. This artistic, curvaceous slide is nothing like you have seen before and is loved by both children and adults. The openness of the slide entices everybody, young or old, to explore it. This was one of the many attempts by Noguchi to take sculpture out of museums and make them usable to everyone.

3. Moerenuma Park, Japan

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Spread across 400 acres, Moerenuma Park is supposedly Isamu Noguchi’s last work. There are play installations that emulate mountains, rivers, beaches and forests which bring alive the child in you. Some of the famous installations in the park are the Glass Pyramid, Forest of Cherry Trees, etc. Noguchi always believed in creating art that stimulates the imagination and this can be seen in the way he designed the mountain, combining a pool, a quarter-circle path, and other elements to give people real landscape challenges. It is a must-visit when in Japan!

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