Forging imagination

Brandon Clifford and Michael Schanbacher designed special timber playground in Lexington, USA, meant for ‘childish’ exploration and totally devoted to imagination.

Matter Design and FR|SCH Projects, Five Fields Play Structure, Lexington, Massachussetts, 2016
Brandon Clifford from Matter Design and Michael Schanbacher from FR|SCH Projects designed an original play structure situated on the sloping landscape of a mid-century modern common land in Lexington (Massachussets) where neighborhood kids enjoy a shared backyard. The structure cultivates a child’s—and adults’—imagination through play, encouraging inventiveness through its unfolding, discoverable spaces.

 

The Five Fields neighborhood dated back to the early 1950s and was designed by The Architects Collaborative as an experiment, and the community, wishing to keep the experimental spirit alive, requested a structure that had to be both safe and exhilarating for the kids. “Designing a play structure intended for kids is a unique and challenging project”, the designers explain. “While there are irreducible standards that manage accessibility and function in the daily lives of adults, play is neither standard nor strictly functional.” For this reason, the spaces are accessible to adults, but have been shrunk in order to slow them, liberating the kids to fly through the spaces.   

Matter Design and FR|SCH Projects, Five Fields Play Structure, Lexington, Massachussetts, 2016
Matter Design and FR|SCH Projects, Five Fields Play Structure, Lexington, Massachussetts, 2016
The vertical elements reach at one point a height of six meters, and extend into the landscape. The colorful graphics suggest entries and key moments, without overtly labeling them. Pre-conceived architectural elements like doors and stairs do exist, but lead to nowhere. Thresholds are tucked under levitating volumes balanced on a single wall. Another principle of the design strategy provides multiple means of access to any location. These decisions produce escalating challenges for the kids; mitigating risk and ensuring the correct age-range have access to the more treacherous areas instead of withholding them entirely. Older kids climb over while younger crawl under. 

Five Fields Play Structure
, Lexington, Massachussetts, USA
Program: playground
Architects: Brandon Clifford from Matter Design and Michael Schanbacher from FR|SCH Projects
Team: Dar Adams, Courtney Apgar, Josh Apgar, Michael Leviton, Daniel Marshall, Chris McGuiness, Dan Roseman
Graphic design: Johanna Lobdell
Kid consultants: Liam Apgar, Mack Apgar, Bella Dubrovsky, Sam Leviton, Ainsley Schanbacher, Judson Schanbacher
Area: 35 sqm
Completion: 2016

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