Growing up in the suburbs, parks didn't play such a vital role in my childhood life. Most of our outdoor play happened around our home or on our street. But free range kids able to play unsupervised outside and with abandon, are a diminishing part of American culture. In fact, many children, saddled with homework and access to myriad tablet apps and games, seldom make it outside for play. Hence, the proliferation of parks with alluring and engaging design like this one I stumbled upon in Santa Monica last spring.
Tongva Park, Santa Monica, CA
Between the Santa Monica Pier and Ocean Avenue, a provocative metal sculpture projects over the sidewalk from twenty feet above. I was drawn to it so much that I crossed five lanes of traffic in the opposite direction I was walking just to take a peek.
Here's the view that was so captivating. It wasn't the sign that caught my eye, rather the two round sculptures that seemed to be hovering over the sidewalk. I couldn't tell what they were or that this even the entrance to the park. Had to get closer!
And here's what I saw. Two metal sculptures peering out like two eyes from a collage of landscaped retaining walls. The combination of the materials--woven metal, stone and plantings--was fantastic.
Even closer still. Now you've gotta admit this is pretty cool. But I had to figure out what this was. Why was it perched high above and how could I get an even closer look?
Which brings me to the park. Up until this point, I hadn't figured out that this was the entrance to the park. To get to the sculpture, I walked behind the terraced plantings and up a gently sloped ramp which revealed this! Cool architectural plants- a mix of succulents and grasses, vines and trees which appear to be sprouting from angular walkways and a sweeping modern staircase. I had to explore more.
The ascent began up this spectacular plant lined ramp.
And at the top of the ramp-- the back of the sculpture. It's actually a look out point to the ocean.
Off in the distance, I noticed another stair leading to a modern and very special play ground. The closest we have to this type of playground in Miami is South Pointe Park in South Miami Beach.
Here was a medium sized park with plenty of seating and spaces to ponder the meaning of life while your kids play on one of the coolest playgrounds I've ever seen. But parks don't have to be as high tech and modern as this one to be alluring.
Luxembourg Gardens, Paris
By example, large and expansive parks like Luxembourg Gardens, break up the monotony of the urban landscape with the most breathtaking and spectacular spaces. A charming pond where children can play with remote controlled sailboats is equally as successful as the Santa Monica playground.
For Parisians, parks are an integral part of daily life. Americans are still discovering the value of parks, and creative designs like Tongva Park are essential to enticing more people to use them.
Museum Park, Miami
Miami is catching up. Museum Park promises to be something spectacular. They already have some pretty cool stuff happening by the Perez Art Museum Miami. Now that the Frost Science Museum is in play exciting things are sure to come. Let's go Miami!