The playground. A quintessential aspect of a child’s life, social development, and the site of so many adolescent wars and romances. It’s likely that you are thinking about a specific memory of the time you spent on one as a kid right now, as just the singular word “playground” brings back a myriad of memories.
Now, reading the headline of this post, you might think I am crazy. Most playgrounds that I have seen, and you likely as well, are chaotic, inefficient messes of materials and angles. Designing a building with a total playground mindset would be miserable and a poor decision, but I feel that a few of the staples of the jungle gym could make for better working and living environments for society as a whole.
Mind you, not all of these modifications could be applied to every building. Different locations have different requirements from the structure, so unfortunately some places might have to remain boring.
Slides and Fireman Poles
In a world becoming more and more cramped every day, the urban trend is to build up before building out. Stairs are required in every building as an analogue means of accessing different floors in buildings, and they have every right to exist. But the development of the elevator has allowed us to build structures with floors that would take unreasonable amounts of time to reach using stairs alone. This technology is great, but it is more useful going up than down. How many times have you had ridden an elevator down, only to have it stop at every floor? Why not instead install slides or fireman poles in stairwells to allow rapid descent. These concepts also could allow for handicap accessibility in staircases.
Some of the benefits of this could include a jolt to the system when 3:00 PM rolls around and there’s nothing you can do to keep your eyes open, a greater sense of excitement for going down to that meeting with the people you don’t like, mental exercise to prevent collisions with other riders, and a promoted sensation of youthfulness. Not to mention quicker descent and less staircase accidents.
Chain-Supported Plank Walkways
These were always a battleground in my youth. Two people would square off at opposite ends of a suspended bridge, staring each other down, then charging at each other, trying to push the other person back off the bridge while both managing and using the unstable footing. Then there were the times where you tried to get the bridge to bounce by jumping at a specific frequency. Such good times.
Now the application of suspended walkways might seem few and far between, but hear me out; replacing standard floor hallways with a similar setup would allow for several benefits. First of all, the unsteady nature of the floor forces those who are walking on it to pay more attention to how they walk, which helps prevent the ‘zombie mode’ we all seem to fall into when traveling a familiar path. Having individual panels for flooring could allow access to space below the walkway, which could lead to easier maintenance in multi-floor buildings, storage space, and innovative design in HVAC systems. Finally, this type of flooring would promote social interaction, as two people walking on the same suspended segment would have an easier time traversing if they coordinated their movements.
Playground Color Schemes
In most buildings and offices today, you find yourself swimming in a pallet of neutral nothingness. Hallways stretch on for what seems like miles in the eggshell hell that some buildings deem as the best option for design. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like part of my soul gets stuck in the ecru slime covering everything as I pass through one of these abyssal passages.
In contrast, the colors of a playground radiate life and vitality. Deep blues, proud reds, glimmering yellows all work together to bring life to a mass of bolts and nuts and plastic. Why is it that we lose the ability to cope with such vibrant wavelengths as we get older? I honestly do not understand the mentality behind taupe as a preference.
The benefits I see from such a paradigm shift in design include greater emotional range due to the inherent effect of color on the psyche, more energetic employees and environments, a general increase in morale of those who frequent such locations, and a better connection with the world around all who pass through and take notice.
You might notice that these modifications I have proposed have a tendency away from efficiency; the sacrifices made to promote the ideals of capitalism in the modern age are, in my opinion, just a shift from a financial cost to a psychological and emotional cost. The world we wander is full of live and energy, but the realms we construct within our homes and places of work cannot even be described as poor facsimiles of the world around us. Maybe I’m the odd one out, but the next time you see kids on a playground, make an effort in your life to recapture some of that spirit.