A note for both parents and designers on the perils of modern health and safety standards; next time you take a child to a playground think about how complacent you and the child become when faced with play equipment that you’ve seen and climbed on a dozen times before.
Here’s landscape architect, Helle Nebelong, speaking at a conference in 2002:
When we renovate public playgrounds and ask the local residents what they want for their play area the answer today is equipment from nature. I think this is a reaction to decades of use of standardised and unimaginative playground equipment.
The pre-fabricated playground tries to live 100% up to safety standards. These standards developed, based on horror stories of real tragic accidents Although these are guidelines and as such are useful when combined with common sense, they have, in my opinion, been allowed to go too far. The child’s real need for play and development is set aside with good intentions.
I am convinced that standardised playgrounds are dangerous, just in another way: when the distance between all the rungs in a climbing net or a ladder is exactly the same, the child has no need to concentrate on where he puts his feet.
Standardisation is dangerous because play becomes simplified and the child does not have to worry about his movements. This lesson cannot be carried over to all the knobbly and asymmetrical forms with which one is confronted throughout life.
I found this at work this morning in the report No Particular Place to Go by Ken Worpole. Nebelong works for the Copenhagen City Parks department, let’s hope that she gets a few commissions in the UK in future.