‘We’re cosseting our kids’ – the war against today’s dangerously dull playgrounds

Oliver Wainwright:

In the decades after the second world war, the celebrated architect Aldo van Eyck designed more than 700 playgrounds in Amsterdam, filling bomb sites with dazzling constellations of tumbling bars, leapfrog posts and climbing domes. His idea was that by providing children with a range of elemental forms and open-ended structures – rather than swings, roundabouts and other playground staples – their creativity would be stimulated and they would invent new games.

These “tools for the imagination”, as he called his kit of sandpits, frames and posts, became a familiar part of Amsterdam’s streetscape, a connected galaxy of playtime fragments that spread across the city, from public spaces and even to roadside verges, never fenced off. It was a vision of play without walls, the protected domain of the child thrown open and spilling over into the rest of the city.