Putting the play back in playground

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Opening day at the Hills playground on Governors Island.

Opening day at the Hills playground on Governors Island.


Tim Schenck

Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic and the author of “The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids.” The book looks at five different arenas of design about and for children: toys, home, schools, cities ... and the playground.

To talk about playgrounds, Kurt Andersen met Lange (and her children) at one of the playgrounds discussed in her book, Slide Hill on Governors Island. There, Lange explains the history of playgrounds, from their origins in German “sand gardens” and 19th-century New England philanthropic projects to modern, abstract playground designs by artist Isamu Noguchi.

As a mother herself, how does Lange balance safety concerns with what she’s discovered researching and writing this book? “You want your kids to be independent, you want them to have their own minds, but then you see them up on a big rock ... and you think, ‘Is she going to fall? Does she know what she's doing?’ And that's hard. But if you don't let your child take that risk, they don't get the reward of the satisfaction of getting up that rock.”

Slide Hill
Alexandra Lange, Kurt Andersen and producer Tommy Bazarian in front of the Slide Hill playground on Governors Island.

Studio 360

(Originally aired July 26, 2018)

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