Blog August 17, 2012
Chimney Court showcases Evergreen’s approach to children’s play
This is the second in our series on the design and programming of Chimney Court at EBW, by guest blogger Karen Hammond! Read the first in the series here.
By Karen Hammond
If all of Evergreen’s ideas and approaches to building children’s play spaces were placed in a bottle and shaken up, out would pour Chimney Court. And that’s exactly what the design team had in mind. They wanted to create an experimental lab where Evergreen’s philosophy and goals in creating children’s outdoor play areas could be tested and shared with the larger community.
“We wanted to send a message to the country that we see a shift in children’s play areas,” says Cam Collyer, program director for Evergreen.
So this showcase play area offers up big ideas that can be adopted or adapted by others—like its guiding themes of food, water and construction. But there are also plenty of small ideas to be plucked. Already many schools have been inspired to use agricultural stock tanks as raised planters.
For the design team, bringing their bold vision together started by thinking differently. The first move of the two-member team of Cam and Evergreen’s senior landscape designer, Heidi Campbell, was to throw a wild card in the mix. They invited Evergreen’s artist-in-residence, Ferruccio Sardella, to join them.
Ferruccio, who created the joyful public art installations at EBW, was brought on board to ensure that Chimney Court would be a creative and whimsical space for kids. His inclusion also helped to foster the team’s desire to make children’s play possible, but not dictate the kind of play.
“We wanted to inspire kids to be the planners and architects of their own play,” Heidi says. “And we wanted it be year-round.”
Ferruccio describes the task as inventing a creative place where children could be the artist. “It’s like an interactive installation where there are participants rather than viewers,” he says.
The design team also wanted the kids’ interactivity to extend to the natural surroundings.
(Photo: Karen Hammond)
“We want this site to be the gateway to the wild space in the city,” says Cam. “The school, camp and weekend programs facilitate that fluidity with the wild space.”
And indeed, in a quiet dedicated space away from traffic, Chimney Court sits at the doorway to the Weston Family Quarry Garden, a rich and lush naturalized area full of historical and scientific significance. Throughout and beyond the garden lies a network of trails to explore at EBW and the adjacent ravine system.
That’s exactly where one group of campers attending Green City Adventure Camp headed on a recent sunny summer day. Fitted with rubber boots, the campers headed out of Chimney Court to the creek in the nearby Moore Park ravine on a frog-hunting expedition.
One young camper began her search by creeping along the creek bed tempting frogs with a friendly greeting. “Ribbit,” she said in a low voice. “Ribbit.”
Meanwhile a few boys attempted a different strategy of enticement. They worked together to build a dam with rocks to create a pond of stagnant water to attract frogs.
While various sharp eyes were on the job, it was camp counsellor Magmar that caught the sole frog of the day. After a brief showing of the frog and telling of how to be respectful of him, the day’s bounty was released and left to enjoy the creek on his own as the kids headed back for a snack—mission accomplished!
For the design team the mission is larger. It goes beyond Chimney Court and the camp and school programs that connect young people to nature. As Cam explains, “The outcomes are not about coming back to Chimney Court. My favourite thing is when parents tell me they took their kids into the valley to explore. That’s the real take away for us.”