Let's Go Play! III

Children learn through structured and unstructured play, and playgrounds are essential spaces for childhood learning and social exploration.  Municipalities often provide specific spaces within public parks for children's recreation.  Several playgorunds and their surrounding parts created by Northern California designers are depicted here.  Site plans of Newark's Community Park and San Francisco's Garfield Recreation Center show the integration of play areas with the park as a whole, and show the park's relation to the surrounding neighborhood.  In the drawing of Garfield Square by Merchant and Gerson, local public housing is indicated, demonstrating a prime relationship of this recreatin area to local residents.  Often the recreation centers include more than just a children's play area.  Robert Royston designed many Bay Area playgrounds in the 1960s.  His design for Mitchell Park in Palo Alto includes both a children's playground and an area for senior citizen recreation--essentialy an adult playgorund, with areas for darts and chess, rather than swings and see-saws.


Despite research showing playgrounds as doing the most social good in poor and underserved communities, playgrounds are often least able to be maintained in these communities.  Scholars such as College of Environmental Design Dean Jennifer Wolch show this in a July 2011 policy brief on funding disparities in Los Angeles.  Recently, San Francisco residents pressured the city Parks and Recreation department for improvements to the Upper Noe Valley Playground.  This area is quite prosperous, which may explain their success in the renovation.  The playground is seen here in photos from the 1960s and from 2011.


Note that in many of these designs, recreation centers include more than just playgrounds--there are also sports facilities such as baseball fields and swimming pools.  Sports usually require specific spaces to be carried out, some more formal than others.  A wide range of sporting environments are represented here, from the very formal and dedicated social spaces for tennis, golfing and boating, to the more informal team sports fields in municipal settings, to the visitor's center for a major national recreation area covering thousands of acres of wild space.


Spaces for play also exist on a large scale, run by public and private institutions and businesses.  San Francisco maintains a large wilderness camp known as Camp Mather in the Hetch Hetchy Valley of the California Sierras.  Despite the rustic ambiance of the campground, the structures there have been designed as carefully as any building in an urban setting.  Commercially-run venues for recreation vary widely, some are very specific, such as the indoor archery range in Redwood City, designed by Wilfred W. Davies.  The Amusement Park offers a vast variety of recreational possibilities on a grand, campus-like scale.  Several small amusement spaces congregated on the shores of San Francisco's Ocean Beach and consolidated into what is now referred to as Playland at the Beach.  Shown here are two drawings separated by almost forty years depicting details of roller coasters, the ride that often defined the amusement park experience.  On a literally monumnetal scale, ski resorts combined careful organization of alpine hillsides with facilities for sheltering skiers during and after the practice of their sport.  These huge developments also accommodated travel and transportation infrastructure that served their visitors, as the Squaw Valley Ski Resort pamphlet is eacher to exclaim--"Parking for 1,000 Cars" at the end of a "chain-free highway."