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July 11, 2009

Here we go round the chimney pot

There was a time, in the not too distant past, when a child’s playground was an altogether different place. Standardised and regimented, they were identical right down to the potentially lethal tarmac flooring. An obligatory slide, with centrepiece set of swings; a roundabout intent on bringing your lunch back up and, if you were really lucky, a rusty rocket that barely moved despite Herculean efforts to push it. In the last decade, the city’s playgrounds have undergone massive change, supposedly reflecting the Continental aspirations the Celtic Tiger ushered in. These new spaces are about “letting kids figure out for themselves how they want to play”, according to Mette Boye, project manager of a new park initiative in Grand Canal Dock in Dublin. The Docklands Chimney Park, which opened last month, has attempted to redefine what a play space means and who it belongs to. “During the park’s planning we organised a series of meetings and workshops with the local community to find out what they wanted from a park in their area,” says Boye, “We thought that by getting the input of the people who would ultimately use the park, it would create a sense of ownership for them.” Top of the list for canvassing were children themselves. Rather than quiz them about the kind of equipment they wanted, UK playground design specialists Snug and Outdoor set about asking different questions. “They sat down with the kids and asked them about the concept of play and how it makes them feel,” says Boye. So children were challenged to put a mirror under their chin, watch their reflection and try to walk in a straight line. They were also asked about whether they liked water play and encouraged to let their imaginations run amok in conjuring up their ideal playground.

The Irish Times