A COVID Playground

Presenter: Austin Kim

Research Category: Humanities and Arts
College: College of Arts Media & Design
Major(s): Design
Graduation Date: 2021
Additional Authors: Dustin Knopoff, A. Elizabeth Cavallo, Ying Dong, Karli Young, Sophia Ke

Playgrounds are a pillar of childhood development. They allow for controlled interaction between all ages providing a space to learn sharing, playing, walking, making friends, etc. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this more obvious than ever. And yet, children are chaos. Any attempts to bring order to chaos invite more chaos. So instead we’ve designed Our Adventure Through Nature playground with a “guiding hand” philosophy. Each play space is designed with deep intentionality to promote a singular flow of play. Often times children prefer to share experiences with friends simultaneously (going down 2 slides at the same time as opposed to going down 1 slide one at a time). We refer to this as multiplicity (a large variety) and is an additional layer of interaction we have focused on in designing our playground pieces.

Throughout this semester we aim to bring our models as close to real-life as possible. Multiple rounds of testing with children, parents, and experts may show that the use of multiplicity in a playground is fun, COVID safe, flexible, and capable of maintaining relevance post-pandemic. It has the potential to showcase a greater understanding of group child psychology, and more generally the “guiding hand” design philosophy applied beyond COVID could have greater implications of how we can subtly enforce rules within a space without strict, tangible guidelines.