Design: Swings and roundabouts
Photographer Liam Bailey has captured the unique, usually ignored world of the playground. But which is best, municipal old or trendy new?
Saturday 31 October 1998
Playground design has moved on dramatically since Bailey himself was in short trousers, spinning round on a witch's hat or hurtling down unforgiving steel slides. The new playgrounds stand out like beacons of vibrancy and vitality against their more austere predecessors. They are cool social places where kids make their own rules (to be changed at will) and create their own games. They are designed asymmetrically, like higgledy-piggledy organic discovery zones, linked by saggy wooden bridges and rope chains more reminiscent of a crossing over a croc-infested ravine in the Tropics than a pile of woodchips in Peckham. Hyperactive risk-taking is very much part of the thrill and children learn quickly to set and surpass their own limits. This is where children learn social skills and play out their fantasies - but then again, that's what playgrounds have always been for, however good or bad the design
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