These public playgrounds were located in parks, squares, and derelict sites, and consisted of minimalistic aesthetic play equipment that was supposed to stimulate the creativity of children. Over the last decades, these playgrounds have been studied by sociologists, theorists of art and architecture, and psychologists. However, it is argued that the standardization e. This standardization, which was arguably the result of the aesthetic motives of the designer, might be appealing to children when simply looking at the equipment, but it is not of overriding importance to them when playing in it.
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These public playgrounds were located in parks, squares, and derelict sites, and consisted of minimalistic aesthetic play equipment that was supposed to stimulate the creativity of children.
Over the last decades, these playgrounds have been studied by sociologists, theorists of art and architecture, and psychologists. However, it is argued that the standardization e.
This standardization, which was arguably the result of the aesthetic motives of the designer, might be appealing to children when simply looking at the equipment, but it is not of overriding importance to them when playing in it.
Indeed, a recent study indicates that the affordances provided by messy structures appear to have a greater appeal to playing children. The idea that art is an illusion divorced from real life must therefore be abandoned. We demand that it be replaced by the construction of our environment according to creative laws derived from well-defined principles.
Between and , the architect Aldo van Eyck was involved in designing hundreds of playgrounds in the city of Amsterdam. Over the last two decades, the playgrounds of van Eyck have been honored and studied by different academic disciplines, including sociology, art, architecture, and psychology e. Then, we will sketch in bold strokes an ecological approach to the human environment. This approach, which was initiated by the psychologist Gibson in the s and s, provides a framework for understanding the environment we live in.
Moreover, this framework can elucidate some insights from the disciplines of art, architecture, and sociology. Among his first tasks at this department was to design a public playground at the Bertelmanplein in Amsterdam. For this square van Eyck designed a climbing arch, three tumbling bars, and a rectangular sandpit with a rim that is lowered at two places to let small children enter it.
Moreover, a couple of benches were placed at the square, allowing parents to look after their playing children e. The town planning section of the city of Amsterdam wanted to have a playground in each neighborhood in Amsterdam, a city of which parts were destroyed during the war. Although van Eyck stopped working at the public works department after 5 years to become a lecturer in art history and start his own company , he continued working on his playgrounds.
In the period between and , he designed no less than playgrounds in Amsterdam. In the Athens Charter, le Corbusier opted for a massive rebuilding of cities in which the functions of labor, living, and leisure are spatially segregated, and street life was reduced to traffic flows e.
Buber then goes on to state — and this is his crucial point — that the real third is not something that happens to one person or another person separately and a neutral world containing all things, but something that happens in a dimension only accessible to both.
In developing his theory, van Eyck emphasized that concepts are needed that have a bearing on the daily life of people. Hence, with his emphasis on children and their playing Aldo van Eyck stood in a long tradition.
However, the goal he had was ambitious. As van Eyck put it poetically: To consider the city is to encounter ourselves. To encounter the city is to rediscover the child. If the child rediscovers the city, the city will rediscover the child — ourselves. A miraculous trick of the skies — a fleeting correction. All at once the child is Lord of the City.
But the joy of gathering snow off paralyzed vehicles is short-lived. Provide something for the human child more permanent than snow — if perhaps less abundant. Another miracle. Van Eyck, on the other hand, designed and created playscapes in the neighborhoods of an already existing city, accepting and taking advantage of all the constraints that come with it.
During WO II, many houses were destroyed and there were thus ample derelict sites that could serve this purpose. Encouraged by the public works department and the citizens of Amsterdam who explicitly asked for a playground in their neighborhood , van Eyck ended up designing more than site-specific playgrounds.
There are two aspects of these playgrounds that we would like to emphasize. This was rather exceptional in the s and s. At that time the contrived playgrounds were generally isolated places—they were surrounded by a fence with a gate, and children had to pay a little fee or be a member to enter it. Often a guard was appointed who was responsible for the supervision of the children.
Van Eyck, on the other hand, strived at merging the playgrounds with the city. The playground he created at the Buskenblaserstraat in Amsterdam provides a nice illustration of this Figure 1. There were no sharp boundaries that separated the playground from the rest of the city. Courtesy of the Amsterdam City Archive; reprinted with permission.
Van Eyck intuited that such spatial ambiguities would also provoke children to engage with one another, toddlers tending to help each other crawl and totter about. This intuition was elaborated in the making of the Buskenblaserstraat park. Here a park was contrived from empty space at a street corner, with cars flowing past. While the sandpit here is well marked and set well back from the streets; equipment for children to climb on has not been so protected. Cooperative activity—looking out for cars, shouting, lots of shouting—becomes a matter of keeping safe […].
And just because in the Buskenblaserstraat there is enough room for tossing and kicking balls around, kids have had to come up with game rules that permit play without their being hit by cars. The architect, then, designed a park using the simplest, clearest elements that invite its young users to develop the skill of anticipating danger and managing it; he did not seek to protect them through isolation p.
By not fencing the playing children, they became an integral part of the city. Moreover, by placing benches at the square, van Eyck created a place that invited parents or guardians to oversee their children and to gather together. Street life and community were stimulated e. First, van Eyck created play elements using mainly metal and concrete.
Contrary to the brightly colored plastic that is so popular today in playground design, these materials fit in naturally with the building materials of the city. The Aesthetic, Minimalistic Play Elements As mentioned earlier, van Eyck created playgrounds in existing parks, squares, and other empty places in the city, taking into account the constraints that were provided by these places.
Consequently, each playground was site-specific and unique. However, van Eyck created a set of play elements that he used and harmoniously combined in the design of the different playgrounds. Among these play elements are the above-mentioned sandpit, climbing arch, and tumbling bars that were placed in his first playground.
Later he also designed a popular and widely copied climbing dome, jumping stones, and a climbing mountain Figures 2 , 3. Van Eyck was in touch with and inspired by Constantin Brancusi. In his search for the essence of things, Brancusi generally ended up with abstract, powerful geometrical shapes. His well-known sculpture The Kiss offers a case in point.
Even in the first versions of The Kiss, which are less abstract than the later versions, there are no noses, ears, elbows, chins, and throats. An Ecological Approach to the Human Environment In the s and s, the American psychologist James Gibson developed an ecological approach to psychology.
This approach aimed to understand how animals, including human-beings, perceive and act in their environment. As Gibson started his landmark book The ecological approach to visual perception, This is a book about how we see. How do we see the environment around us? How do we see its surfaces, their layout, and their colors and textures? How do we see where we are in the environment?
How do we see whether we are moving and, if we are, where we are going? How do we see what things are good for? How do we see how to do things, to thread a needle or drive an automobile? Why do things look as they do?
Gibson argued against psychologies that do not do justice to lived experience and everyday behavior. Like van Eyck, he criticized the concepts of space and time, notions that psychology had adopted from classical physics and that held it captive for centuries. At the time Gibson developed his ecological approach, cognitive psychology was in its ascendancy. This psychology started from the physicalist assumption that the environment is meaningless, consisting solely of matter in motion.
To understand how we experience a meaningful environment full of color, smell, taste, and so on , cognitive psychology claimed that in the process of perception our brain creates a perceived world—it attaches meaning to the stimulus information that our senses receive. In the autumn of his life, Gibson developed an alternative theoretical framework, focusing on the animal, the environment, and their relationship at an ecological scale.
He coined these possibilities affordances, and defined them as follows. The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or for ill. The verb to afford is found in the dictionary; but the noun affordances is not. I have made it up p. For example, for a human-being a chair affords sitting, a floor affords walking upon, water affords drinking, and so on.
There are two aspects of the affordance concept that need to be emphasized here. First, affordances exist by virtue of a relationship between the properties of the environment and the action capabilities of the animal. Whether a glass affords grasping with one hand depends on the size of the cup relative to the span and flexibility of the hand—a cup that might be graspable for an adult might not be graspable for a toddler.
Hence, to determine the affordances of the environment for an animal, we have to measure the environment not in terms of metric units i. Second, and related to this, describing the environment in terms of the affordances of an animal points to the functional significance this environment has for the animal. It refers to what the animal can do in his environment, what it means to him Gibson, Ever since its introduction, the concept of affordances has proven to be useful to understand the environment and our behavior in it e.
The latter refers to our everyday description of our environment. When describing a park, for example, we mention a tree that is in the middle of a grass court, the lake, and the benches at its side.
An affordance-based description of the environment, on the other hand, is relative to the user and puts the functional significance of the environment center stage. Moreover, contrary to a form-based description, an affordance-oriented one recognizes that a single object can have different meanings to an individual.
As Gibson had already emphasized, a single object can afford different behaviors to an animal. For example, a child can sit on a bench, but can also step on it, and jump from it. Also in the context of architecture the concept of affordances has proved its mettle, both in the analysis of the built environment and in the design of it. Beek and de Wit , for instance, adopted this concept in analyzing the City Orphanage in Amsterdam, another celebrated project of Aldo van Eyck.
ALDO VAN EYCK DESIGNING FOR CHILDREN PLAYGROUNDS PDF
Kebar This perspective was initiated in the s and s by a number of authors e. At that time the contrived playgrounds were generally isolated places—they were surrounded by a fence with a gate, and children had to pay a little fee or be a member to enter it. One of the most important aspects of the play elements van Eyck designed is that they do not have a designated function: The Science of Play: Blog Obituary 04 Apr How do we see what things are good for? The playgrounds were fantastic because the objects were simple: In the s and s, the American psychologist James Gibson developed an ecological approach to psychology.
Aldo van Eyck’s Playgrounds: Aesthetics, Affordances, and Creativity
Aldo Van Eyck: Designing for Children, Playgrounds