When The Seattle Center, home of the famous Space Needle, wanted to renovate a three-acre play area, they knew they wanted something special. Merging a diverse team of artists and play experts, they set about creating a playground that prioritized art as much as play. They put children's wishes front and center and matched The Seattle Center's legacy of community engagement. The impressive result is guaranteed to thrill and impress visitors for years to come.
The creation of the "Artists at Play" Project was an ambitious undertaking. Local artistic, historical, and cultural nonprofits spearheaded the project, with a design team consisting of playground specialists, landscape architects, and artists Judith Caldwell and Trimpin. “It's (was) not easy to strike a balance between beauty and play... but our team was different because of the collaboration between our diverse team members," explained the head landscape architect. The collaborators, the stakeholders, as well as the Seattle community, were given a prominent platform to have their voices heard, through numerous meetings, open houses, and community outreach workshops. All culminating in a space for diverse urban play that would forever be free and open to the public.
"This park was truly a 'child-designed' play space," said artist Caldwell, who closely based her concept on a drawing created by a little girl asked to illustrate what her ideal playground would like. The drawing, which at first glance, looks like an implausible fantasy, remarkably resembled a design by KOMPAN. Based on the uncanny resemblance and our reputation for child-centric design, KOMPAN was selected as the co-designer and creator that would make the little girl's fantasy playground a reality.
The synthesis of art and play was always at the heart of the project. A musical note wheel, listening stations, a rain stick, and many other musical games and activities by artist Trimpin engage children sonically, socially, and developmentally. Natural elements throughout, like boulders and mounds made with artificial turf, contribute to the atmosphere of discovery. "The staff at the Seattle Center had the strength to manage the artists and were willing to take the risks suggested to make a fantastic space. The Seattle Center trusted the team completely, which is very important for an artist," remarked Caldwell.
DESIGNED BY CHILDREN CREATED BY ARTISTS
Wows parents and children alike
KOMPAN's Sky Walk design was already available when The Seattle Center play space was being conceived. An elevated passageway made out of strong netting, the Sky Walk design was the real-life equivalent of the little girl's drawing that inspired the project, and was the impetus for KOMPAN's involvement. Almost 30 feet at its tallest point, the KOMPAN structure made the little girl's fantasy playground into a reality, with two uniquely shaped slides, multiple elevated swinging bridges and walkways, and plentiful climbing opportunities. Already an ambitious design, KOMPAN and the project team also explicitly required the final product to be extremely safe and accessible, not only to the disabled, but to all ages and physical capabilities. KOMPAN, known for safe and accessible design, naturally integrated ground-level activities and accessible slides, stairways, climbing nets, carousels, and a swing. Not only did the design exceed all criteria, but its aesthetic perfectly mimics that of the famous Space Needle, which looms in the playground's backdrop. "...It’s a unique and aesthetically beautiful setting, really a dream urban setting," said a member of the landscape architecture team. “The park fills a need in downtown Seattle where there are not a lot of play opportunities.”
“Our team knew right from the start that the focus had to be on kids...as an iconic space, our design should offer a play space that kids can’t get anywhere else"
WA, Seattle 34236, USA