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"Playscapes: Adventure-Style Playgrounds in Central Park" documents the design trends, social motivations, and public engagement that made the Central Park a kind of laboratory for playground design in the 1960s and 1970s. Pre-WWII playgrounds were often sterile, fenced, paved, and sparsely furnished places--custodial cages for kids--not the stimulating environments that the midcentury public demanded. Pressure mounted for an alternative approach, ultimately resulting in the "playground revolution," and Central Park became a testing ground, with a range of interesting, innovative, and creative play spaces that broke the mold. Comprehensively designed environments with interconnected forms, such as pyramids, mounds, and steps, and basic materials, such as water and sand, encouraged new levels of creativity and interaction. These designed landscapes were visually attractive to adults and engaging to children, forming a typology that is commonly called adventure-style playgrounds. By the end of the 1970s, a total of ten of Central Park's twenty-two existing playgrounds--equipment-filled lots dating to the 1930s--had been transformed according to the new ideals of design.Over time, the modernist playgrounds declined, and in the late 1990s, the Central Park Conservancy began to update them, responding in large measure to a grassroots movement aimed at preserving them. "Playscapes" offers a broad perspective on this effort, revealing patterns and relationships that provide new insight into the playgrounds' significance and enduring relevance, and connecting them to the history and legacy of other playgrounds in New York as well as the cultural context of Central Park. The Conservancy, established in 1980, is typically known for its work restoring and managing the park's iconic landscapes designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux; updating these rare post-WWII playgrounds marked a departure. "Playscapes" is the first book to discuss in comprehensive detail this more modern layer of the park's design, highlighting the debates over how to uphold its original purpose while accommodating new uses.
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