Custom-themed, inclusive playground integrates community's history and heritage.
GameTime recently completed a custom-themed playground project at Hart Park in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The park is at the center of the Milwaukee suburb and has been without a playground since the late 1990s. GameTime's custom play division, PlayWorx, helped create a unique play space that combined the history and geography of pre-settlement Wauwatosa with themed playground equipment.
The project was the vision of architect Ed Haydin, AIA of architecture firm Engberg Anderson. Says Haydin, "I wanted to create a space that was a playground first, a place that enhances the natural curiosity of children while integrating the history of Wauwatosa." Working closely with Haydin, as well as community stakeholders, GameTime created woodland play areas for preschool and school-aged children with custom play sculptures that drew from the area's geography and history, including a partially dug out canoe, log climbers, an eagle's nest and more. Inside many of the sculptures are carvings of animals and other creatures that enhance the discoverability of these play elements. Haydin also placed passages from Longfellow's epic poem, "Hiawatha" throughout the play space to reinforce the Native American heritage of the region and to instill a love of learning in the children who visit the playground.
From the outset of the project, accessibility and universal design was of paramount importance. Haydin describes his approach to universal design as a "spine of access" that allows full integration for children and adults of all abilities.
Wauwatosa resident, and founder of The Ability Center, Damian Buchman attended the dedication ceremony at the new park. As a child, Buchman survived bi-lateral osteosarcoma. In remission since 1993, he has a unique perspective on overcoming physical challenges and is a tireless advocate for universal design. He was pleased with the accessibility of the playground for children and adults who use mobility devices.
Buchman said, "I was thrilled to see it was clearly universally accessible all the way to the highest level. Most playgrounds are only accessible to certain points and then kids have to stop while their friends go on, but you can explore this playground from top to bottom.”
GameTime representative Harlan Lehman is Vice President of Minnesota/Wisconsin Playground. He said, "We were honored to have been selected to help bring this project to life. Ed Haydin and Engberg Anderson provided an inspired vision for the project and the City of Wauwatosa should be commended for making that vision a reality by combining the city's heritage with play."