Architectures for play in Central Park: adventures against apathy


  • Juan José Tuset Davó Universitat Politècnica de València



Adventure playground, Urban activism, Minimalism, Reinforced concrete, New York


Children's play architectures propose new uses for urban public space. The intervention of the New York architect Richard Dattner with his "Adventure playground" (1967) in Central Park creates a children's play environment from formal anarchy in which children can imagine their own ways of playing. The proposal of elemental architectures that encourage children to be adventurous was opposed to the apathy inherited from the conservative institutionalized design. Structures linked by a slightly winding concrete wall define living and playing spaces by creating a natural separation of the children's and the adult's environment. The concatenation of iconic forms of children’s plays aims to choreograph the child's personal learning experiences. Dattner's project is the architectural expression of a bold play program. It represents the rebellious attitude of young architects of advanced ideology. It symbolizes the radical change in thinking about the design of the public playground. It considers the need to involve the community in the project phase and is a contribution to the artistic avant-garde movements that vindicated the specific object of minimal expression.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Juan José Tuset Davó, Universitat Politècnica de València

Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos.

Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Valencia


Allen of Hurtwood, Marjory. “Why Not Use Our Bomb Sites Like This?” Picture Post, Noviembre 16, 1946.

Allen of Hurtwood, Marjory. Play parks. London: Housing Centre Trust, 1964.

Allen of Hurtwood, Marjory. Planning for play. London: Thames & Hudson, 1968.

Allen of Hurtwood, Marjory. Memoirs of an Uneducated Lady. London: Thames and Hudson, 1975.

Bertelsen, John. “Early Experience from Emdrup.” In Adventure Playground, edited by Arvid Bengtsson. New York: Praeger, 1972.

Burkhalter, Gabriela, ed. The Playground Project. Zürich: JRP/Ringier, 2016.

Caro, Robert A. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. New York: Knopf, 1974.

Dattner, Richard. “Playgrounds Aren't for Playing; Playgrounds Are for Growing and Learning.” American School Board Journal 160, no. 4 (April 1973).

Dattner, Richard. “Play Without Barriers.” American School and University 50, no. 1 (September 1977).

Dattner, Richard. Civil architecture: the new public infrastructure. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994.

Dattner, Richard. Richard Dattner: selected and current works of Richard Dattner and partners architects. Victoria, Australia: Images Publishing, 2000.

Dattner, Richard. Design for play. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1969.

Friedberg, M. Paul. Play and Interplay. New York: The Mac Millan Company, 1970.

Hirsch Alison B. “From ‘Open Space’ to ‘Public Space’: Activist Landscape Architects of the 1960s.” Landscape Journal 33, no. 2 (2014).

Huizinga, Johan, Homo Ludens, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1949.

Hyslop, Donald, ed. Superflex: One Two Three Swing! London: Tate Publishing, 2017.

Jacobs, Jay. “The Playground Explosion.” Art in America 55, no. 6 (1967).

Jacquette, Julia. Playground of my mind. New York: Prestel, 2017.

Jost, Daniel. “Resurrecting the adventure-style playground.” Landscape Architecture 100, no. 3 (March 2010).

Kinchin, Juliet, and Aidan O'Connor. Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000. New York: MoMA, 2012.

Kozlovsky, Roy. “Adventure Playgrounds and Postwar Reconstruction.” In Designing Modern Childhoods: History, Space, and the Material Culture of Children; An International Reader, edited by Marta Gutman and Ning de Coninck-Smith. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2007.

McWilliams, John C. The 1960s Cultural Revolution. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Mee, Charles L. “Putting the play in playgrounds.” The New York Times, November 6, 1966.

Mogilevich, Mariana. “Landscape and participation in 1960s New York.” In Use Matters: An Alternative History of Architecture, edited by Kenny Cupers. New York: Routledge, 2013.

Noguchi, Isamu, and Manuela Moscoso. Parques = Playscapes: Museo Tamayo. Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo. México: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes; Barcelona: RM Verlag, 2016.

Rose, Jonathan. “Come together: integrating design.” Harvard Design Magazine, no. 27 (2007).

Sørensen, C. Th. “Skrammellegepladser o campos para juegos infantiles.” Cuadernos de arquitectura, no. 14 (1950).

Solomon, Susan G. American Playgrounds: Revitalizing Community Space. Hannover N.H.: University Press of New England, 2005.

Torres, Ana María. Isamu Noguchi: Un estudio espacial. New York, Valencia: Monacelli Press, IVAM, 2001.

Wurman, Richard Saul, ed. What Will Be Has Always Been: The Words of Louis I. Kahn. New York: Rizzoli, 1986.






Research articles
Received 2019-05-13
Accepted 2020-02-14
Published 2020-10-30