Rainwater on the Playground – Making Drainage a Play Feature

In our Southern African context, play spaces are often neglected and under funded, poorly maintained and even dangerous places, but the need for them is ever more pressing as safe havens for mothers and their children in densely populated and disadvantaged areas. Using natural features and making a feature of essentials such as drainage to stimulate creative play  is a simple and effective way to stretch budgets and get more out of the space – these ideas and references from Playscapes which is a very interesting resource for Landscape Architects in need of ideas.


Learning through Landscapes also produced an insightful report on the Berlin schoolyards, with many great images, including those above.  There’s a wealth of inspiration in these schools’ tolerance for untidiness, their insistence on sand rather than mulch or safety surfacing,  and the ‘reprofiling’ of school yards to introduce slopes and dips….it’s a must-read document.   One aspect of the report is the use of drainage as a play feature.  When you do hear about playground drainage it’s usually as a problem! But these schoolyards consistently see it as opportunity,  channeling the flow with gentle swales and valleys, places kids naturally like to play.

The water course can take various forms, from an artistic mosaic to a boulder-strewn stream bed.  You can of course add piped-in water to these features, but I like the way using rainwater introduces a seasonality and changeability to the playscape.

Orange Park, London by Planet Earth Ltd


Dahl Playfield, Seattle WA, by siteworkshop

The ever-helpful London Play have produced a document all about playing with rainwater and sustainable drainage strategies with loads of helpful tips and great site examples to inspire your own rainwater playscape.

Santa Monica Unveils Field Operations Designs for Civic Center Parks via The Dirt

A description of the progress on James Corner and  Field Operations designs for the parks in Santa Monica and the challenges facing them. Seems like it very similar to here – a lot of hype is put into the process, but similar to New York’s Governors Island compettion, ( See Interview with Adraain Geuse of West 8) this is a long and slow process: The link to the presentation on the Design Development is really worthwhile looking at:


Last year, James Corner Field Operations won the commission to design the newSanta Monica Civic Center parks, which includes a new town square and Palisades garden walk. Designs for the seven-acre, $25 million project were recently unveiled, showing an “ambitious, layered” proposal that will be broken up into a number of “systems,” writes The Architect’s Newspaper. These systems are a set of “colorful and diverse zones” that enable different experiences for park visitors.

According to The Architect’s Newspaper, the new landscape includes a set of zones: “view-centric hills, sheltered bays, and meandering pathways surrounded by plants, fountains, and small creeks.” There’s a Grand Bluff, which will provide views of the ocean and neighborhood. Garden Hill will offer the “widest variety of plant life on the site.” A new Gathering Hill is designed for ”congregation and relaxation.” The Discovery Bay is a new kids play area and will include ”an area shaded by large trees that will contain extra large steel slides, forts, and other activities.” The Town Square, which local respondents to a survey said had too much pavement, will get a new reflecting pool, reflecting the city hall.

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What is a Park – Landscape or Infrastructure

This article from Archinect by Nam Henderson interviewing  Gerdo Aquino who  is president and principal of SWA Los Angeles studio, on how parks are a vital and critical infrastructure need of cities from the perspective of its value to the urban population not just in its social and cultural values but also from its ecological and movement based functions. Seeing as how African cities parks are under threat from both the needs of land for development, overrun by illegal squatter populations and underfunded in their maintenance and policing,  often the perception of urban citizens iis that they are  a dangerous hazard and of no value. See Ian Ollis’ essay “No quick fix  to save our cities..”

How can a park be designed to serve as infrastructure(s)? Thinking not in terms of metaphor alone. But rather a park as the architecture for numerous designed outcomes. Park as infrastructure, means park as platform not only designed object/scape. From a singular tool to multivalent toolkit. It is important in such discussion to think of the less immediate impact. Of social design, the design of relationships. Such a platform-as toolkit-may result from more efficient, and stack(ed) programming. Thus maximizing urban spaces, suburban spaces, available spaces, that are under-performing. In essence, we should think about the best ways to maximize our various infrastructural corridors: utility, transportation, waterways et al.

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