When I moved to Athens, Georgia from Los Angeles I started researching cool things to do in Atlanta. I am a city girl and although I love the slower pace of the town we live in, knowing that the capital of the South is within an hour’s reach was extremely comforting. So by “cool”, I am obviously implying anything and everything design related!
I came across the Noguchi Playscapes early on in my search and thought that any park with modern sculptural structures to play on was worth a visit, kids or no kids. Art in a public space that you could actually interact with! This concept is commonplace in today’s landscape of cultural experience, but Isamu Noguchi, an American-Japanese sculptor, was commissioned by the High Museum of Art in 1973 and the project was completed in 1976, putting him on the forefront of this movement. The playground in Piedmont Park is the only one realized by Noguchi in his lifetime, however he had designed a concept in 1933 intended for New York City, “Play Mountain”, qualifying him to have pioneered the ideas for what are today’s splash pads and the like in public spaces and parks.
Noguchi played around with ideas for decades of how to get children into outdoor spaces to move, think and explore in the natural world. His statement, “I think of playgrounds as a primer of shapes and functions; simple, mysterious, and evocative; thus educational,” was quoted on fundraising letters sent out prior to being officially hired for the job. The project was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and was to be the High Museum’s bicentennial gift to the city.
The playground has since been restored and conserved a few times over due to vandalism, gang related activity and corrosion. One of my friends confirmed that the Playscapes were “off limits” in her childhood as her parents didn’t deem the playground fit for their children to play on. Luckily, I made my discovery after the most recent restorations were completed in 2009. And I finally made it out to experience the Playscapes a couple years ago after having my son. To be able to watch him and other children take advantage of such a unique setting in a beautiful park definitely satisfies my penchant for being aesthetically high-strung and makes for a special family outing to be certain.
The Noguchi Playscapes are a collection of swings, seesaws, slides, climbing blocks and a sand pit, the colors and shapes like candy to the discerning eye. The playground can be easily accessed from the 12th Street Gate at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Georgia. Grab some friends and head out to play, your Inner Child is waiting!