How South Park is Changing Old Paradigms of Public Space

I love the renovated South Park in San Francisco! It amazes even me to be writing this because I was a big fan of the old South Park and really did not expect to be cheering any changes. The prior version was wonderfully historic: it was dedicated to play and contained some terrific equipment pieces that Richard Dattner and Paul Friedberg had each designed in the 1970s. The updated version- which opened in September- is the work of Fletcher Studio and it represents the future. It is intergenerational with minimal fencing, has porous edges for easy accessibility, showcases plenty of seating and eating areas, and contains a standout piece of customized equipment that adults as well as children can enjoy at the same time.

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Two Ways Philadelphia is Encouraging Public Play Space


Patronage of play spaces continues to expand.  Once the province of municipalities, public playscapes are now supported by percent –for-art programs; housing authorities; even the Olympic redevelopment corporation in London.  At the same time, charitable foundations are showing a keen interest in playgrounds as public venues and as centers of kid based learning.  It is lovely to see that foundation support, which was essential for modern playgrounds in the 1960s ( e.g. M.Paul Friedberg’s Jacob Riis Houses; Richard Dattner’s Adventure Playground), is continuing a legacy.

Two organizations, both in Philadelphia but with very different constituencies, recently came to my attention.  One is based in community design and the other is an advocate for local business. While these seem disparate organizations, each has produced a model for improving city neighborhoods through innovative play areas funded largely by local philanthropic resources.

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