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Bring back fun playgrounds

THE MONITOR'S VIEW: New York asks a noted architect to design a playground, a sign of the need to get kids off the Game Boy.

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Would you like to swing on a star? Frank Gehry, a star architect who designs gleaming, undulating buildings – for grown-ups – is now designing a one-acre playground for children in lower Manhattan. Does this mean society wants new, creative ways to unhook kids from their Game Boy and other electronic addictions and entice them to enjoy imaginative play – outdoors?

One can only hope. For the past 25 years, playgrounds have been designed to be so immune from injury lawsuits that they have become downright boring, almost childproof. Often all that's seen on a playground is an expanse of rubbery surfaces. In Broward County, Florida, playgrounds now come with signs that say "No Running."

How can children overcome limitations and form good social skills without at least a few physical challenges?

If anyone can design both fun and safety into structures, it is Frank Gehry. His buildings often come with whimsical curves and colors that are outside the sandbox of other architects. He is most well known for billowing, silvery surfaces, such as the titanium-covered Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

The inspiration for this magical look comes from his childhood in Canada. His Jewish grandmother would bring home live carp and park them in the bathtub, allowing him to marvel at their lustrous movements.


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