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American Playgrounds
Revitalizing Community Space
Susan Solomon

2005 • 276 pp. 87 illus. 6 x 9"
Landscape Architecture / Education

$35.00 Hardcover, 978-1-58465-517-6

“an insightful new book that explores the degradation of playground design in the past generation”—San Francisco Chronicle

A compelling history, a manifesto, and a manual for change.

For years, designers, educators, and community administrators have clamored for a book that will highlight the problems with contemporary playgrounds, tender sorely needed strategies with which to redress them, and stimulate national debate about today’s crisis of undervalued public space. Susan Solomon’s groundbreaking and marvelously illustrated American Playgrounds is that book. Since the 1970s, Solomon maintains, American playgrounds have degenerated into irrelevance as cultural artifacts and educational tools. Imbedded in Solomon’s text is a frank indictment of American attitudes that are stunted by a heavy-handed emphasis on safety that limits the nature of play and the vitality of places for public assembly.

During the past decade an elite few American architects, landscape architects, and sculptors, including Stanley Saitowitz, Walter Hood, and Mary Miss, have pioneered the restoration of aesthetic and developmental values to play areas for young people. Solomon appraises these success stories and proposes fresh and urgent remedies that blend excellent design principles, innovative planning, and affordability—a vision for the future of the playground in America. Supplementing her impeccable command of primary and secondary sources with hundreds of hours of interviews with designers and clients, the author confronts a seriously under-developed topic with powerful and complex arguments rich in social history, law, theories of play and childhood, and urbanism. Readers will be inspired—and equipped—to take up the gauntlet of advocacy for superior American playgrounds.

Accessibly written, American Playgrounds will fascinate diverse constituencies, including parents, educators, policymakers, and art, architectural, and cultural historians. For those commissioning, funding, designing, and overseeing playgrounds, it will be indispensable. The book includes a foreword by Martha Thorne, Associate Curator of the Department of Architecture, Art Institute of Chicago.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements:

“A passionate argument . . . Solomon's work provides a welcome discourse. Her clear-headed attack on the playground as a low-risk plastic pavilion is a message for patrons and politicians.”Children, Youth and Environments

“As difficult at this task may be, Solomon is powerfully optimistic that the current tide in American playground design will usher in a new age where local politicians, communities, and individuals will develop unique playgrounds to provide solutions to their particular problems. Because she argues for individual design solutions to individual community problems and challenges, her book does not provide a simple recipe for success; it shows something much more important. Solomon shows for the first time how American playgrounds came to be the way they are. She shows convincingly that a trend has begun; and her book details the tools to be used and the challenges that must be overcome for American playgrounds to, once again, become extraordinary catalysts of cultural and social exchange that can shape American lives for the better.” R. D. Kushner, Editor in Chief,

“Susan Solomon uses her knowledge in these areas to answer these questions and add a valuable historical layer to the existing literature on playground design. Refreshingly she investigates the aesthetic contribution of urban playgrounds designed collaboratively by architects, landscape architects, industrial designers and sculptors" that is both an "informative and fascinating chronological review.”—Landscape Architecture

Author Photo

SUSAN G. SOLOMON received a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. Trained as an art historian with a concentration on twentieth-century architecture, Solomon has extensive experience as a curator, writer, and speaker. She is the author of Louis I. Kahn’s Trenton Jewish Community Center (2000) and heads her own research firm, Curatorial Resources and Research, Princeton, New Jersey.

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 14:14:59 -0500