Magazine

First Person

A new movement in playground design takes them far from the usual

The Design Museum Foundation’s Sam Aquillano invites visitors to an exhibition on Extraordinary Playscapes.

Not for other use until Magazine first publishes on 06/05/16 - 5/24/16 - Boston, MA - Sam Aquillano, cq, is the executive director of the Design Museum Foundation. He is photographed here near one of their installations, the PlayCubes, located in Chinatown Park. Topic: 060516FirstPerson(2) . Photo by Dina Rudick/Globe Staff.
dina rudick/globe staff

I was always very into creativity and making things. Design is part of everything we do, everything we see, everything we touch, and for the public not to be engaged was a missed opportunity. We were trying to create a traditional museum in 2008-2009, the worst possible time to start a new museum. At the same time, there were underutilized spaces all over the place. We’re bringing the museum to places where people already go. We’re also in Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco.

Most playgrounds are not very interesting for kids, don’t really challenge them or develop motor skills or social skills. As we dug in, we saw how designers design playgrounds based on liability and injury prevention, that playgrounds are designed more [for] maintenance and the municipalities’ needs rather than what kids need.

There’s a new movement in playgrounds called adventure playgrounds.

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We [show] a couple of them in our exhibition, one in the U.K. It’s basically an outdoor junkyard — trees, scraps of metal. Kids can play with hatchets, light fires, and build forts. We show people and they say, “We can’t believe their parents let them do that!” I ask what their childhood was like, and theirs was like [mine]: falling down, getting hurt, figuring things out, and getting home before the streetlights came on.

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The world has definitely changed. I had a lot of unsupervised playtime that research shows allows kids to establish creative thinking, risk taking — all these characteristics we want our kids to have, and it goes back to why we did this project.

GET OUTSIDE Let your inner child romp at the opening of the Extraordinary Playscapes exhibition on June 8 at the BSA Space at 290 Congress Street. Visit designmuseumfoundation.org for more information.