IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2015 - 17
in his New York office.
in an Imagination
You've said "The instinct to play and the
instinct to learn and create are the same."
What does that mean?
Growing up, play was one of the critical ways
I found to mediate the world. I was always making
and building and creating. That was the way I was
able to understand the world-by making things.
I became an architecture student and moved
around to different places, and I was always
fascinated by the creative instinct. A sense of
curiosity and drive and engagement-all of those
things are important to me in my studio and all
of my work. I had kind of an epiphany about my
work through research and play, and it reinforced
significant ideas to me about the power
of the built environment.
So is "play" an underlying theme on every
project you do?
I think the underlying theme is fostering social
engagement and creating places that create a sense
of delight and connection. In the National Center
for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, play is not
really the intention, but to create a socially
engaging space that connects people in a powerful
way. That can be play or it can be discussion, but I
think playfulness is a state of mind we're always
trying to keep present. My career over the past
thirty years has taken us into a lot of adult
playgrounds: restaurants, hotels, night clubs,
theaters. And then of course, the Imagination
Playgrounds project for kids.
That project came out of thinking about
how design could help the community, right?
Yes. After 9/11, we started to think about what we
could do proactively as designers to help. In 2005,
we began to look at all of the playgrounds taken out
of commission after the attacks, which led to five
years of self-initiated, self-funded research and
development. That led to our first fixed site
playground, Imagination Playground at Burling
Slip, and also portable versions of the playground
that we did in a box and cart. Imagination
Playground was conceived as an ever-changing
landscape of pieces that kids can manipulate and
put together in new ways, endlessly, so that no visit
to the playground would be the same.
The research that most intrigued me, especially
as the father of two children, was that playgrounds
were beautiful to look at but were in some ways