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image Project: PS 40 M and PS 33 M

PS 40 M and PS 33 M

Introduction : Team : School : Narratives : Costs : Images


Architect Narrative

Designed to help elementary students understand and appreciate the architecture of New York City, the “Miniature Manhattan” playground projects are symbolic representations of New York on the scale of young children. Intended to be both educational and recreational, the challenge of the playground was to take the decks, bridges, slides and ladders that children like and are familiar with and give them a fresh appeal- serious, yet playful.

The roof of an elementary school located on East 19th St, in New York had deteriorated into a barren unusable space. The focus of the project was the installation of new play equipment, featuring three “towers.” Designed as miniature Manhattan buildings, the powder coated steel play towers are the highlight of the structure. The replicas of the landmark buildings represent the Woolworth, Chrysler and Empire State Buildings. The playground sits on a safety surface of recycled tires; the mat is shaped like the island of Manhattan with a green rectangular insert representing central park.

The second school, located in the Chelsea neighborhood has a triangular play area facing 26th St. which has also been transformed from a barren yard into a miniature city. The new playground energizes the entire yard as well as the 26th street block between 9th and 10th avenues. Featuring two towers as the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, the project includes new trees running parallel with the street, new basketball facilities, benches, landscaping and an elaborate maze centered on a large existing tree.

The Woolworth, Chrysler and Empire State Buildings stand at 19 feet, 20 feet and 21 feet six inches tall respectively. Connected by bridges, decks, ladders and slides, the structure is painted in red, white and blue, with the roofs of the buildings painted in a silver metallic flake for the Chrysler Building, blue metallic flake for the Empire State and green metallic flake for the Woolworth.

Completed after the World Trade Center Attacks on September 11, the playgrounds have served as a means of giving the children an intimate and tender way in which they can come to terms with the new New York skyline.

Educator Narrative

In a city where safe and attractive play places can be hard to find, the “Miniature Manhattan” playgrounds are a welcome and appreciated addition to these two New York City schools.

These playground designs are both appealing to adults and inviting to children. With youthful elements of the city, these playgrounds identify and incorporate the New York City that young children see; the safety mat represents the island of Manhattan, lions represent the Central Park Zoo and ships represent the South Street Seaport. The playground still employs the familiar and standard equipment, however, connecting the structure are three miniature towers, replicas of the Chrysler, Woolworth and Empire State Buildings. Therefore, taking a familiar scene and reintroducing it in a unique and creative way just for children.

Resembling the prominent Manhattan skyscrapers that all New York children are familiar with, a narrative history is introduced using the famous iconography of the city. The designs serve the schools as more than just playgrounds, but have also served as classroom teaching tools for both social studies and math lessons; the playground has become a literal building block of elementary arithmetic. The design itself fosters both creativity and learning and shows how education can be interrelated to even the youngest student.

At both schools, lack of safe and energizing play areas was an issue, and with limited space available in urban communities, a creative solution was needed. Recognizing the potential of a triangular play yard at one school and a rooftop at the other, the design team created playgrounds for both schools based on the premise of a New York City on the scale of young children. The new playgrounds saw both yards, which were either not being used or were underutilized, and transformed them with their unique features to be the pride of the students, teachers and parents at both schools.

The project was being built on September 11, 2001 and was finished shortly afterwards. The juxtaposition of the playground skyline against the real Manhattan backdrop gave a sense of community to the school during that difficult time in which larger buildings were shown as friendly rather then threatening. Both schools used the designs as a way of giving the children an intimate and tender way in which they could come to terms with the new New York skyline. Since the designs feature the backdrop of the real New York City, the children have incorporated the urban environment into the playgrounds, making the city itself a part of the playground.

Recognized Value Award 2005

Long Island City
New York


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