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Tour de Play: Chicago


Playworld and the Design Museum Foundation have made their final stop on the Extraordinary Playscapes national tour: Chicago, Illinois! This marks more than two years of collaboration showcasing the importance of play and how innovative play design can transform outdoor spaces.

On October 11, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held for Playworld’s PlayCubes™ exhibit along the Chicago Riverwalk. Missy Benson of Playworld, Mike Bell of Reese Recreation (Playworld’s local representative), along with Sam Aquillano and Amanda Hawkins of the Design Museum Foundation welcomed Chicago’s cultural commissioner Mark Kelly and Riverwalk Assistant Project Director Michelle Woods, to the pop-up play space. Mark Kelly’s first reaction to the play sculpture was that of many public passersby, “How do we get this to stay?”

The following day, architect Richard Dattner, original creator of PlayCubes, addressed designers in a VIP lunch event held at the renowned Perkins + Will firm in the famous Wrigley Building in downtown Chicago. Dattner discussed the history of the cuboctahedron shape and his early attempts to get PlayCubes off the ground, as well as his collaboration with the Playworld team over the past few years on the modern revival. He went on to urge young architects to never give up on their projects, citing PlayCubes as a lifelong project he was finally able to perfect with help from Playworld.

After the presentation, attendees were invited to join Dattner in walking across the river to view the PlayCubes play space, which features the product in its all new metal construction. The new material provides an ultra-sturdy option for urban playgrounds that need to stand up to harsh conditions and high traffic. You can learn more about the new metal PlayCubes here.

The Extraordinary Playscapes Chicago exhibition will continue into late December, so don’t miss it!

Looking Back…and Ahead

Over the past two years of traveling across country with the Extraordinary Playscapes exhibition, we’ve had the amazing opportunity to showcase our play sculptures in four major cities: Boston, MA; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; and Chicago, IL. With the help of the Design Museum, we turned many unsuspecting places into play destinations, from the lawn of city hall to bustling business districts and urban neighborhoods. We saw firsthand how products like PlayCubes and PlayForm 7® not only create an exciting place to play, but function as a work of art around which community conversations and connections are made.

In fact, many of our pop-up play installations were so popular among locals that their removal was delayed for several months, and even indefinitely. The PlayCubes in Boston’s Chinatown Park on the Rose Kennedy Greenway received such rave reviews in a Greenway Conservancy survey that they still remain there today, more than a year after their debut appearance. You can read more about PlayCubes and the Boston installation in our whitepaper.

Although this marks the end of the touring exhibition, this journey has inspired even more opportunities for the future. If you didn’t have a chance to see the exhibit in person, you’ll soon be able to bring it right into your home! Design Museum Foundation’s book, Design & Play, hits shelves soon, highlighting more than 40 extraordinary playscapes from around the world (including PlayCubes in Boston). It also includes a 200-year timeline of playscape history in addition to other articles and research from the curated exhibit. Order yours today!

As we reflect back on this experience, we realize we couldn’t have hoped for a better result. The Extraordinary Playscapes exhibition has started a revolution. More and more people are now witnessing the value of play and its possibilities. Before these temporary pop-up play areas were established, many of these communities would’ve had a hard time visualizing just how play could fit into their environment—not just logistically, but culturally and aesthetically. We’re proud to have played a part in this revelation and hope that this passion for play, the same passion upon which our company is built, continues to grow and thrive.


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