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Play Patio Saves the Day

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A temporary play patio enables Glen Foerd to plan for the future—and even saves it from “a series of unfortunate events”

Glen Foerd Conservation Corporation wants to complement Glen Foerd's beautiful mansion, grounds, and Delaware River views to this historic 1920s estate, now part of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, with a play space for children and families. Last year, the Collaborative helped the nonprofit organization re-imagine its vacant, 400-square-foot garden house for play, inside and out. We also designed and installed a temporary play patio that enabled Glen Foerd to test out its play programming ideas—and even saved it from “a series of unfortunate events”.

The temporary play patio, created from recycled materials, made its grand debut last July at Jazz Age on the Delaware, Glen Foerd’s 1920s lawn party fundraising event. The proceeds from the event will go toward developing of permanent play space based on the Collaborative’s conceptual design. 

Erica Freeman, director of programs and collections for Glen Foerd, wanted the temporary play patio to be interactive and to engage multiple learning intelligences (musical-rhythmic and harmonic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalistic, and more).

Erica says, “Visitors were able to draw on chalk boards, play musical instruments, play checkers, or just sit and relax in the shade of our holly tree grove.” The patio remained active after the event, she adds. “Adults favored the checkers table. For children, music definitely won the engagement war.”

Teachable moments
Heidi Segall Levy, director of design services at the Collaborative, says temporary installations like Glen Foerd’s help organizations “plan for the future and gather more information before investing further.”

Erica agrees: “Without a temporary space it can be hard to measure things like: How long before all of the checker pieces need to be replaced? How much staff time will it take to reset elements? Even the location can change... The temporary play space has inspired us to continue to explore the types of activities we would like in a children’s space.  We are testing a children’s garden including an edible garden and play structures that can be made of natural elements like bamboo.”

“The temporary play space was in place for five months. It was broken down in one day. The materials, particularly the recycled pallets, are being used for a variety projects including ceiling material for a tiny house, and pedestals to keep objects safe if we were ever to experience flooding in the lower levels of our buildings," says Erica. 

“As an organization that places a focus on environmental stewardship, we were very excited that the patio was constructed using recycled pallets and play elements from previously constructed play spaces. As a nonprofit that tries to make the most of our budget, we were impressed by the volunteer team’s focus on sustainability and the space’s cost-efficient construction.”

A series of unfortunate events – foiled!
The temporary play space had an unexpected benefit last autumn. “Through a series of events, the music elements at our temporary play space helped save the site from disaster,” recalls Erica. “One evening a group of teenagers with nothing to do, trespassed onto the property.  As everyone knows, play is the great equalizer, and this group decided to play with the musical instruments and wind chimes before leaving. This alerted our staff to our late-night guests.”

“While we don’t believe the teenagers were out to do harm, they had accidently flicked a cigarette onto our riverside embankment—setting a brush fire that easily could have destroyed our boat house and historic mansion. Had they not had the urge to play, we would not have caught the fire in time.  Play saved the day!”

Learn more about the Glen Foerd Design Grant and its volunteer team



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