D.R. Maples, USA
The concept for the sky playground emerged from the unique circumstances of interacting with an existing bridge. The design process was somewhat inverted from building up to building down which created an opportunity for exploration. This new interaction led to the idea of inverting or flipping a design in some way. Another point of interest was the demographic survey in which local residents asked for more spaces to play.
A bridge seems to oppose a space for play; the bustling of traffic moving people from one side of town to the other creates a space not very kind to children’s play. However beneath the bridge there is no traffic, and pedestrians are sheltered from direct sunlight in the summer and precipitation the rest of the summer. A combination of these opportunities led to the idea of creating an “inverted playground” under the bridge.
The combination of inversion and a play area led to the idea of creating an “upside-down modernized playground” using the bottom of the bridge as the “floor” of the playground. The “floor” is a box hung from the bottom of the bridge which has a strip of LED lighting running around the perimeter. The LED lighting illuminates the space for twilight and night play while also drawing in local pedestrians from the street and those wandering the area. The bottom of the box is covered in turf to provide a familiar ground texture to the inverted scheme. Because of the inversion of the space the play area needed to feel open below and closed off above so the height of the main space was kept intentionally low and the space is lofted a fair height above the ground. The design was also kept intentionally clean yet industrial to be able to fit within the existing graffiti while remaining in place if additional projects continue to change the nature of the space under the bridge.
The layout of the play space was originally based on the traditional Orthodox Churches in the surrounding areas, using the cruciform shape, eventually shifted so that the swings run under the space creating a three pronged shape. The center piece is made up of repeating plating and beams mimicking the bridges undersides orthogonal rhythm. The spaces are to be somewhat contained, due to the height, yet also feel open with many slips and openings for users to look out. The floor plan has a stair and slide on the sides flanked by the existing supports for the bridge with a lookout to the north and monkey bars extending out on the south face.
The swings, normally one of the taller pieces in a playground have been slid under the above pieces, reinforcing the concept and consolidating the space used. This opens up the two edges of the play space to be used by younger kids and/or family members watching those up above.
The design is a bold step that would hopefully lead to other small, possibly crowd-funded, spaces under the bridge. This trend of micro-parks could help vitalize the space and activate it from an afterthought to a vibrant microcosm of the diverse and proud history of the city of Yaroslavl.
D.R. has grown up around construction his entire life, his dad is a contractor. He has worked construction and is currently interning at a local firm.