September 28, 2009

Unstructured play...for grown-ups?

Grown-upsThis post was originally published on the Playmaker blog.

Thanks to Playscapes, a fantastic blog about playground design, I found these neat stories about unstructured play for grown-ups -- or at least teenagers.

An installation last May at the Tate Modern of Robert Morris's 1971 exhibit Bodyspacemotionthings.  The original installation prompted a fascinating response from the public: abruptly closed four days after opening, because Tate staff "were not able to cope with the frantic means of emotional release that the exhibition became. An orderly pandemonium was expected, but pandemonium broke out," according to the Times in 1971.

What brought such an emotional release? Play. Specifically: "a series of huge props including beams, weights, platforms, rollers, tunnels and ramps built from materials such as plywood, stone, steel plate, and rope" which "invited the audience to clamber up, slide down, balance on and weave through large sculptural elements."  Oooh.

While the new installation didn't invite such pandemonium, it was massively popular, running for an extra two weeks! Wow.

Check it out:

(the original installation)

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(and the new one)

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Speaking of unstructured play (after a fashion), there's also been an installation in Cowley, England, called the "Cowley Teenage Space." 

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Created by snug&outdoor, they consulted with local teenagers, then created a flexible space, with athletic fields and "inactivity zones."  With "spaces for occupying, playing on and flirting around." (I love that) Then they added ramps, platforms, steps and wooden crates for the teenagers to move around and create their own space.

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I just love it.  So any of you find that teens need their own space to play -- do they create it out of what they have?  Do you have teens using unstructured parts in their own way? How can we foster their sense of play (and not have it squashed).