The Resplendent Playscape

This playscape is the product of a community leveraging design as a vessel to change their environment and become a catalyst for growth. A safer, more vibrant space seeks equity in a place deprived of investment and opportunity. The design is inspired by duality of the Central American deity Quetzalcoatl – representing both the heavenly and worldly- and invites the children to test their limits while stay safe and relaxed. The serpentine climbing structure is nestled between trees, in-sight of a mural illustrating its Central American heritage and a jump pad area designed by the children.

Design Challenge

Radical community involvement and self-determination in the execution of this project empowered upcoming generations by allowing them to recognize their contribution in being the change in their community. Colony South is a predominantly immigrant, low-income community with rampant vice activity that has entrapped generations within its boundaries. The over 50 children between the ages of 2 and 15 that live here are exposed to poverty & squalor unimaginable to most Americans. This project has provided the youth of this community insight on their ability to transcend their environment and understand their potential, despite their circumstances. The process of designing & installing this playscape was a vessel for inspiration as well as a journey to help provide equity throughout our community. The grant used to partially fund this playscape was limited to a specific amount and requires the grantee to secure other sources of funding to design and install the playscape within 1 year. The grant only provided $25,000 for the playscape, a small sum for a contemporary playground, even for catalog equipment. This disparity was quickly recognized by the greater community. In-kind donations of labor and materials quickly amassed and added over $80,000 in value to the project. Over 100 volunteers spent their weekends cleaning the site and assembling the playscape. Numerous establishments kept the volunteers fed and even came back to provide free bikes during the recent holiday season. The site is now a fully-equipped, custom playground with bike racks, mulched areas and a dedicated bus stop.

Physical Context

The site is immediately adjacent to Jonesboro Road, a busy, high-speed, trucking artery in South Atlanta. Antiquated metal fencing on 2 sides attempts to shield children from venturing out into the street and an abundance of trash and debris scattered throughout the site contains hazardous material. The design provides clear boundaries with its immediate neighbors & passing motorists to discourage illegal behaviors. A dynamic play structure commands attention and distracts curious youth from venturing off its grounds. Immediately upon its completion, the children began to bring blankets and pillows to construct make-shift forts on and around the structure; instantly reimagining the present environment into something new. The structure provides a refuge for the children, a place to call their own. The colorful netting provides a porous surface for children and adults to perch, climb or hang from. The sinuous structure of the playscape navigates between trees and connects the far ends of the playground, purposefully providing a playful bridge to traverse the site. The concept narrative of Quetzalcoatl, a powerful and respected deity in Central American culture, connects to the heritage of the community. The serpentine structure, colorful pieces and illustrious mural on the perimeter fence that embody the playscape support the cultural identity of its context and helps to maintain this identity in the community’s emerging generations.