David Rockwell is letting Brooklyn kids build their own new playground, reports Jim Dwyer in The New York Times (12/18/13). David is well known for designing playgrounds for adults – like "Nobu restaurants, W hotels, casinos in Singapore and Connecticut," for instance. His latest project is for kids at the 100-year-old Betsy Head Park in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and will feature "loose parts" – basically, "big, soft blocks and shapes" that the children can use to build “whatever they’d like." Even more important, he says, are the connections they might make.
"I’m interested in not just the individual design buildings, but in the experiences that connect those buildings,” he says. "It’s that connective tissue where street life really happens. It’s what makes us want to be in cities." He’s thinking that one kid will look at what another is building and want to find a way to connect them. "One would make a tower, one would make a path," he says. "Well, first the boys would take the noodles and hit each other for five or ten minutes, which would of course alarm the parents." But soon they would seek ways to work together, he believes.
Design, says David, "doesn’t just happen at the big, fancy cultural center level … It happens at the street level." The park is actually David’s second in New York City; his first was built for a school that had been relocated in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. The idea was based on David’s research into the history of playgrounds. "Unwittingly, creative risk had been engineered out of play," he says. His concept is that of "pop-up playgrounds that could be assembled quickly, at low cost." The result, he says, is that kids play "longer, harder, deeper with the loose parts."