Kilburn Grange Park adventure playground. Photograph: Erect Architecture
Sense of adventure: what happened to playgrounds that give children space?
“A city that has no room for the child is a diabolical thing,” wrote the Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck. No architect has cared more about how children inhabit cities than Van Eyck, who in 30 or so years after the end of the second world war built more than 700 playgrounds across Amsterdam.
Soe Ker Tie Hias (The Butterfly Houses), Thailand It looks like a group of backpackers’ beach huts but is, in fact, an orphanage for Karen refugees from across the Thai border in Burma. Designed by Norwegian architects TYIN, the six bamboo-clad houses are open and split-level inside, creating space that is not just flexible and practical (you can sleep six in each) but also play-friendly – in line with recommendations on aiding recovery from childhood trauma.
‘Save us from a poke in the eye with a sharp stick,” I wrote in the LondonEvening Standard, in 2000, when property developer Irvine Sellar unveiled plans for a 1,400ft-high pointy cylinder above London Bridge station. I went on to say that if he wanted to build something this big, which would be visible all over London, the least Sellar could do was hire a decent architect.
The very words “Battersea Power Station” are enough to elicit a collective groan these days, so anaesthetised have we become to bold new plans to turn the London landmark into a theme park/ice rink/hotel/shopping mall/football stadium/urban park. It’s defeated architects and property developers so many times, fatigue has just about set in permanently. If they announced it was going to become an intergalactic rocket launchpad tomorrow, we’d all yawn.