On Wednesday, March 16, an enthusiastic crowd gathered to see the nine finalists of the Play Space Design Competition. Each finalist team—chosen from among 40 inspiring entries—was charged with delivering their concept for an innovative Philadelphia play space in a cool seven minutes.
The design competition was the centerpiece of Play Space, an ongoing partnership between the Community Design Collaborative and the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC) to explore the ways that innovative play space can help both children and communities grow.
Over the past year, Play Space has been demonstrating the relationship between high-quality early childhood education, community cohesiveness, and innovative design. The Collaborative and DVAEYC have hosted a precendent exhibition, design charrette, a community design-build project, a talk series, and the Play Space Design Competition. The goal of the competition was to re-imagine play spaces for a public library, recreation center, and school.
The design competition’s completion comes at an exciting time for Philadelphia. Mayor Jim Kenney recently announced a $500 million capital campaign to improve public libraries, parks, and playgrounds throughout the city.
"This competition lifts up the idea that we can recreate city spaces… and gives people a place to dream, to love, to learn a sport, to move communities together."
— Michael DiBerardinis, City of Philadelphia
Michael DiBerardinis, Managing Director and a long time advocate for Philadelphia's parks and playgrounds, began the evening by underscoring the value of these spaces to the city, “This competition lifts up the idea that we can recreate city spaces… and gives people a place to dream, to love, to learn a sport, to move communities together.”
“Tonight, we are here to celebrate where design comes into play,” said Beth Miller, Executive Director of the Community Design Collaborative. "The power of play space in the community and its impact on early childhood development is an issue facing all cities.”
Maiken Scott, WHHY Behavioral Health Reporter and Host ofThe Pulse, served as master of ceremonies. "It's been a pleasure to see the city green up in the two decades that I've been here. As a mom in Fairmount with no backyard, I'm happy to have options for getting my children outside. All kids in the city should have the opportunity to get outside, to dream, to imagine, to all the things kids should do."
Lots of hard work (and play, we hope) went into all 40 entries in the competition, representing collaborations between designers and educators from five countries (the United States, Canada, China, Germany, and Poland) and eleven states in the U.S. These entries demonstrate the range and creativity of the designs inspired by the Play Space Design Competition.
The three winners emerged from a rigorous judging process that included reviews by two juries and community feedback. This enabled experts in education, policy, and design to weigh in. as well as the ultimate users of these play spaces. One winning entry was selected for each competition site. The winning teams received $10,000 prizes for their extraordinary ideas and efforts.
The designs and good ideas gathered through the competition will serve as blueprints for improving the three sites and as models for implementing citywide initiatives to raise the quality of Philadelphia’s public open space and early childhood education.
“The real winners tonight are our children and youth. “We have the ideas, and we have an engaged community. Now we need to champion the support and funding necessary."
—Sharon Easterling, DVAEYC
“The real winners tonight are our children and youth,” said Sharon Easterling, executive director of DVAEYC. “We have the ideas, and we have an engaged community. Now we need to champion the support and funding necessary for Philadelphia’s nonprofit and public sector implementers to bring innovative play space to every neighborhood in Philadelphia.”
See the event unfold via Storify. Find yourself in our full deck of event photos on Flickr. And read our Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed on rethinking play spaces for children. You’ll have a second chance to see the Play Space Design Competition entries at the AIA Convention from May 19 to 21, 2016 and at Philadelphia City Hall this fall.