An adult playground prototype
Playgrounds are spaces where creative and playful activity emerges. Children interact in playgrounds primarily through game playing. They create games and through that they understand social order and the group dynamics that arise from their interaction – which plays an important part on their development
process. The design of the playgrounds is focused on creating that kind of environment. They are a space for exploration, experiment and learning in a positive and pleasurable way. Their structure is mostly semi-structured, allowing moving around with freedom, in a non-obstructed way, thus affording free-form
types of play, and enhancing the creative process of children, in order for them to create their own forms of play and games. Those design principles though are not applied that often into adult play, since the primary target of playgrounds are learning, and developing an understanding of the social structure – which adults are already familiar with. Moreover, adults have a more structural behavior than children, in order to function inside the society. This, as a result, sets adults to be less of a target for playground design. Finally, adults are more aware of the social norms, which makes them more self-aware regarding awkward situations, thus it appears to be more difficult for them
to enter a playground environment and interact with other adults in the way children do. Those design challenges we try to solve in our playground prototype. We attempted to create a playground where adults will feel free to interact, without the fear of embarrassment, allowing them to experience the same feelings a child would experience when engaging in a playground environment.
Anonymity is one of our key player experiences we are aiming for, and in order to achieve that we used sensory deprivation. By creating a dark environment where sight is deprived as a sensor by the participants, we aimed to create a feeling of being an observer, and remove the feeling of being observed. Adults are able to interact with each other through sound, and through engaging
with the dim light sources inside the various rooms. The music room allows them to create melodies and sounds through collaboration, and also gives the sense of presence without identity, since they can see how many other people are around them but they are not able to see their body or the faces – a key part of our identity. Adding to that, the fluorescent colored paints that are in the
various rooms, combined with the black-light in the playground, provides them with the choice of which parts of them they want to be visible to the rest of the players. In addition to that, the lights in the corridors that are activated after a time delay of someone passes under them, convey information about the presence of other people, and encourage interaction, since one may follow them to meet the others. The time delay serves both as playful activity – one has to follow the path to meet someone rather than just go to the light source – and as a way to preserve the anonymity – players will only meet with others only if
they want to, since a players location will never be shown in real time. Furthermore, sight deprivation serves as a stimulant to the other senses. Adults are encouraged to use the rest of their senses to navigate the space, with primary focus on hearing and touch. We anticipate this to be a
freeing experience, a break from a society that is based heavily on sight. An adult will not be focusing on how they appear or how others appear, but rather they will experience connections with other people and their environment through sound and touch. In addition, the sound-proof rooms deprive the senses even more, and the participant will be able to experience an almost complete isolation from outside stimuli, an experience that rarely if even occurs otherwise.
At the same time, depriving the senses leads to a sense of terror, since we are relying on sight during our daily lives. Therefore, the amount of light sources and their density require further experimentation, in order to keep the feeling
of terror in a level where it enhances the experiences rather than becoming a horror experience. Terror, could enhance the experience, as long as it doesn’t become the main feeling. The experience then will be more memorable and unique, and the overall experience will leave the feeling of satisfaction, since terror induces thrill. At the same time, a player will always be able to leave the playground, as there will be people monitoring the environment and guiding
a player to safety if needed. Moreover, a sound system is implemented to help players navigate the space. A sound is assigned on each room and every participant will constantly hear sounds from the speakers around them, indicating which rooms they can reach if they continue on their current path. This will allow the players to find their destination even when feeling disoriented inside the space.
Finally, a redesign of the playground layout is required. The initial idea was that the tree-like structure will assist the players on finding the alcohol and drug vendors. Instead, a circular structure should be implemented connecting the rooms and the corridors together, and the vendors will move around the main corridors, something easy for someone to identify, therefore making it easy to locate them. Using a tree-like structure would break the flow of moving through our playground, and making backtracking a dull experience for the participants.
In addition, branching from the entrance is possible to encourage the players to leave instead of exploring the space when they backtrack, which is something we do not desire.
In conclusion, this playground encourages free-form play for adults, allowing them to use their creativity. They are able to collaborate in creating music
or use paint to express themselves visually. By having anonymity through sight deprivation, participants will be able to express themselves, and interact freely.
While some elements from children playgrounds can be transferred into adult playgrounds – circular structures, non-structure interaction with the elements – others do not transfer as well due to difference of the characteristics of an adult – higher skills, larger bodies, different way of thinking. Thus, the elements
that an adult playground could contain need to be designed with the adult persona as target. Furthermore, adult playgrounds do not have necessarily an
educational purpose, they could rather serve as entertainment spaces.