“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

Victor Emil Frankl

Madefor Issue 001

Hi everyone!
I'm very excited to be sitting here putting the final touches on the very first Madefor Design digest! Over the last 6-7 years I have been researching play and design, focusing intensely on where and how they intersect.  I am obsessed with figuring out how to use design to invite others to break the social barrier and engage in movement and playful activity.  In this time I have also compiled a vast library of resources, from books to construction materials to projects and more.  I hope you find something within to inspire your work! 

This issue I kept is short & sweet with three little projects . In the future I'll drop a couple more per issue, and there will always be posts going up on the blog. Feel free to email me things you find as well Caitlin@StudioMadefor.com


PS - Don't forget to subscribe!

Athletics Exploratorium

The Athletics Exploratorium by Keingart Architects is the epitome of creative invitations to play.  What makes this project really work is that it takes a traditional track & field, which comes complete with its own expectations of movement and behavior, and it juxtaposes it with the unexpected.  People are drawn off the track and into these alternative uses, and before they know it, they are using their body in ways they haven't before.


How can you twist up something that already involves movement in order to broaden someones perspective? How can you change a soccer field? Or a baseball field? Or even tennis courts?  What are things we can do to blacktops & other surfaces?

Vegetable Crates! with Yalla Yalla!

With Yalla yalla!
Germany, 2015

I won't lie, I am pretty much OBSESSED with crate installations. I have a whole library folder chock full of these types of projects, and this won't be the last one I share. Crate constructions just seem like that sweet intersection between do-it-yourself, creative reuse, budget-friendliness, and cool.  Plus, you'd be surprised how sturdy these structures can be once assembled.

This installation stacks vegetable crates and tops them with OSB to create a walking surface.  It is used more as a display space than a play space, but I can only imagine re configuring the whole structure to be lower to the ground and good for jumping around on.


Use crates! There definitely needs to be more experimentation in the world of pop-up playground/temporary structures with crates. They are cheap, easy to move around, and, again, surprisingly sturdy when clustered correctly.

All wrapped up

There are a couple of projects that I've seen over time that wrap scaffolding with fabric and plastic in order to define space, create privacy, and visually draw people in.  


Vertically wrapping instead of horizontal would not only define space and create these pockets but also allow for people to pass through--a fun play between privacy and publicity.

Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan - Temple of Agape - Southbank UK

Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan - Temple of Agape - Southbank UK

PopSugar & ShopStyle's Cabana Club at Cochella

PopSugar & ShopStyle's Cabana Club at Cochella

Forest Temple

I love this small intervention by Casagrande Laboratory and Marco Casagrande.  It is simple but creates a cozy, atmospheric space for gathering and ritual.  


I'm particularly enamored with the way he used rope and am obsessed thinking about what would have to be done to make the rope secure enough to be 'climbable'.  I am sure there is enough friction and tension to allow for it, but could you imagine low walls of rope going through a forest?

The Undefined Playground

Designed by BUS Architects, the Undefined playground is a modular, portable, and collapsible playground system that can be dropped into an open/public space, transforming it into a play space.

I really love the considerations towards multi-use, and the considerations towards borrowing equipment. I'm curious to know how hard/heavy it is to maneuver, as well as if there is any more seating that gets pulled out.  That would probably be my biggest critique (which is small, at that!).  Great ideas here.

The Hills on Governors Island

The opening of the Hills on Governors Island was one of the events of the 2016 summer that I looked forward to the most. I was quivering with excitement to go and play on the real-life version of those sexy images released showing mountains of stone and wood!

In the weeks following the opening, you could go and find people laying around on the large stones on the hill, as well as running up and down.  That the space inspired movement (hiking, exploring) is without a doubt.

However, the island is failing to meet the potential of the space by policing the behaviors of adults and teenagers.  There were plenty of children running and jumping between the large stones, with no issue. As soon as an adult went to do the same, however, a guard quickly came over and asked us to cease and desist. They cited concerns for safety, as well as the sturdiness of the structure itself.

If an adult jumping between two of these stones might cause a structural security issue, then perhaps this shouldnt be open to the public. Lets be real.

This is an excellent example of where you have a design being failed by policy.  In my manifesto, I lay out three key elements to playspaces being able to realize their fullest potential---one of which is support of the space through the development of tolerant and flexible public policy.

Hopefully the island will become more lax with the years.

Swarovski Playground

This four-story temple to play in the Austrian mountains, designed by Snohetta, is a collection of interesting spaces for movement and social interaction! Being a large and self-contained facility, it appears that many of the spaces are friendly both to adults and to kids. There are spaces to indulge as well as to spectate--and it seems to operate more like a public space than an exclusive playground.


Differences in Play: How our ideas of play differ with demographics, and how those differences are manifested in design

When you look then, at these two spaces, playgrounds and fitness parks, you will see two drastically different ideas on what 'play' is.

We all recognize the importance of play for children. New York City alone is home to hundreds of children’s playgrounds–adventure and imagination playgrounds, modern designs, interactive sculptures, nature inspired, wood constructions, loose parts, prefab structures, and more.  The city seems to be devoted to designing, building, and renovating new & interesting places for children to play.

But what about all those teenagers and adults?

For some reason children are the only ones allowed to indulge in play, according to society. Teenagers and Adults who attempt to engage in some form of childhood play are dismissed as unproductive, self-indulgent, and immature; and are told to ‘grow up’ and be more responsible.  There must be structure and goals.

And, sadly, the city and society seems to agree by its construction.  Sure, there are hundreds of playgrounds, but how many are adults allowed to use?  And those that ARE designed for adults, what do they say about our expectations when it comes to adult play?

'Adult' Playgrounds

'Adult' Playgrounds

'Childrens' Playgrounds

'Childrens' Playgrounds

Let’s take a look at an example that will reflect the city at large–Central Park.  In Central Park there are 21 designated playgrounds (https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/central-park/facilities/playgrounds).  Of those 21, however, a grand total of 0 are allowed to be used by teenagers or adults. Instead, for adults, the park provides basketball and tennis courts, recreation centers, and soccer fields--all highly structured activities either requiring equipment or membership.  The closest thing to a playground that adults receive is a fitness park--just 1--which is a series of pull up bars and sit up stations.

And, when you look then, at these two different spaces for play, you will see two drastically different ideas on what 'play' is.

  • For children, play is imaginative, creative, and open ended. There are no guidelines on how to use the equipment (though most contemporary out-of-the-box systems certainly have movement expectations built in--for another time). There are bright colors, there are large structures, there are moving parts, sand, blocks, water, etc.
  • For adults, it is goal-oriented, structured, and well-established. Each piece is isolated, with instructions and directions.  There is no room really for free thought beyond how many reps am I doing.  Everything is contained, stable. Pull up station, sit up station. Balance here, specifically, but not really anywhere else. 

It is established that adults need play as much as children in order to nourish and support their mental, physical, cognitive, and social health---so why are our spaces so drastically different?

Grounds for Play: Towards a Ludic Architecture

This November, I will be daily releasing a series of short reflections as I organize my thoughts, research, and ideas about the American Playground and its place in the future of urban and public spaces.

Specifically I will be trying to (1) document the history of the playground in the modern era, (2) examine physical spaces from which games, play, and ludic behavior have naturally emerged over time, (3) inventory exemplary cases, on both extremes of success and failure, (4) explore potential principles for designing play into public spaces, and (5) argue for the elimination of the playground as an autonomous, isolated, and un-integrated space in our cities. 

This will culminate in a guidepost, a set of principles and recommendations--a manifesto for the next great american playground, and the future of play in our urban fabric.

Inventory of Posts:

Current Questions:

This section is a sort of dumping grounds for questions and ideas I wish to explore. This is a 'living' post and will be updated regularly as the month moves along.

  • How do we define play, playground, and play-ground?
  • How do these definitions change when cross-sectioned with demographics, and how are these differences in definition and expectation manifested in design?
  • What is a ludic space, what are our goals, and how do we measure its 'success'.
  • What are the most common features of oustanding ludic spaces? Failing ones?
  • What are our major influencing factors involved in whether or not it is a 'success'.
    • Cultural influences
    • Player / Emotional background
    • Physical dimensions
  • The Age of Guerrilla Play; How our bad decisions in design has lead to the re-appropriation of public space and a counterculture of movement.

Michael Grossert's 'Walk-in Sculpture'

One of many of the post-war experimental playground designers, Michael Grossert is a swiss sculptor who designed a small number of play sculptures in the late 1960s, early 1970s.

The phrase he used to describe his work was 'walk-in sculpture'--where the public can interact in a more complete way with the work,, walking through, under, around, and on his work. Some of his larger and later ideas were whole landscapes of shapes and colors that would excite the passerby.

Additional Readings & Sources

The Fitness Park

Quick look: The fitness park is a poor substitution for a playground, and an insult to our teenage and adult populations. Reflections on the Fitness Park in NYC.

In 2012 NYC opened its first official ‘adult playground’ and has plans to build two dozen more by the end of 2014 (3). However, calling them playgrounds is a gross exaggeration. That ‘adult playground’ is nothing more than an outdoor gym, with isolated stations and plastic signs telling you what you should be doing and where and how. Pull-ups here, situps there, balance on this one beam and this one beam alone. No problem solving required, no creativity needed, no room for exploration or collaboration… no fun, no freedom. The only two benefits I see is that it is free to use and smells significantly better than a box gym.

Teenagers are faring a little better, but just barely.  There is the development of a playground at Hudson Yards, but its completion is set way out in 2015, and what it ends up offering is yet to be seen.  For those who enjoy skateboarding, there are numerous skateparks open to the public, though it should be noted that their use is contingent upon the signature of a waiver and specific equipment requirements.  But if skating isn’t you’re thing, then you’re as well off as the rest of the adult population.

Thus there is no denying that in the City and Society today, there is a unacceptable and near complete lack of designed and designated opportunity for teenagers and adults to engage in free, unstructured, creative play.

When you go to a park, your free options are to walk, on this path or that one, or to sit on a bench, in the shade or the sun,  or to people watch. You can also roll around in the grass (some of the time).  Pull out your wallet, and there are tons of bike paths if you’re able to afford a bike, or you could throw a ball in the field, assuming you have the equipment, so long as you don’t disturb your neighbors.  If you wanted to organize a game of soccer or tennis, you have to compete with the hundreds of others looking to use that space, or possibly even purchase a permit.

And, well, with those as your best options, it should be no surprise to hear that in NYC more than 1/2 the adult population is either overweight or obese(4)(5).  One could easily link obesity to the fact that the opportunities that are available to get moving are too expensive, difficult, competitive, or, to put it plainly, not a whole lot of fun.  

Fitness & play needs to be more than gym workouts, expensive specialty classes, long walks in the park, and competitive team sports. And, even if there WERE opportunities for play that met this criteria, there would additionally need to be guidance and support, as we as a society and population have been conditioned into systems thinking and to be fearful of 'play'.

To put the long story short–we don’t need more gyms and classes in our city; we need more playful, adult infrastructure.  We need infrastructure that is complex, inter-generational, and flexible, that both guides and allows for adults & teenagers to develop and explore their own open-ended challenges.  We need a place that is safe, welcoming, accessible, and fun. …And We need to stop looking at play as a distraction or diversion from reality, but rather as an integral element of our continual, healthful development.

3 “New York Introduces Its First Adult Playground.” New York Times. Winnie Hu. Web. 20 Mar 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/nyregion/new-york-introduces-its-first-adult-playground.html?pagewanted=all

4 “Obesity.” New York City Department of Health. Web. 20 Mar 2014. http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/living/obesity.shtml

5 “BRFSS Brief: Overweight and Obesity, NYS Adults 2011.” New York State Department of Health. Web. 20 Mar 2014. http://www.health.ny.gov/statistics/brfss/reports/docs/1304_overweight_and_obesity.pdf

Park Hill Estate by Lynn and Smith

Park Hill estate, Sheffield, 1963. Part of the Park Hill estate, designed by Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith, who were tutored by the Smithsons – the founders of new brutalism. The estate was famous for its experimental ideas, like walkways in the sky, and that approach was reflected in the playground. Photograph: Arch Press Archive/RIBA.

Park Hill, Sheffield - 1963. Image © Arch Press Archive RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Park Hill, Sheffield - 1963. Image © Arch Press Archive RIBA Library Photographs Collection