Serious Play


A 29-foot-long playground sculpture by Tom Otterness in a new park adjacent to two apartment developments on West 42nd Street

An article in the New York Times today about recent examples of art patronage by real estate developers included this photograph of a goofy-serious play-sculpture by Tom Otherness.  The design is not quite my cup of tea (it’s neither camp enough nor well-resolved enough as a design), but it provides some useful lessons as we continue to do planning for multi-building community development projects that include outdoor social and play spaces.  While it’s certainly true that off-the-shelf playground equipment has gotten much better (in terms of design and features), there still might be a place for customized approaches to installations that invite more open-ended and imaginative play than the jock-centric exercise apparatus of recently constructed playgrounds.

I have direct experience with this issue since my two children (ages 8 and 10) are in their waning days of extensive urban playground use.  In addition to their two favorite classic playgrounds – the Boston Common and Christopher Columbus Park on the Waterfront – they are also huge fans of Peter Walkers’ misting rocks (Tanner Fountain) at Harvard.  During the past four years, they have developed an elaborate leap-frog game that incorporates the risks and penalties of getting wet into the logic. No such ritualized play has been developed at the other locations.


Peter Walker, Tanner Fountain, Harvard University, 1984


Pantone Color of the Year 2010 -or- Why I Don’t Like the Dolphins


“Turquoise is a color that most people respond to positively”

-Levent Ozler via

Like many football fans, I have one (or two) teams that I root for, followed by a handful of teams that I can get behind when my team is not playing. Beyond that, I can even look at teams I don’t particularly care for and find players or team dynamics that I can respect. In the entire NFL, there is only one team that I really don’t like. At all. That team is the Miami Dolphins. Yes, I find Mercury Morris’s rants about how no team will ever be as good as the ‘72 Dolphins completely boring. Yes, I get annoyed hearing Joey Porter talk smack on New England EVERY time the two teams play. But what it really comes down to is the colors. Turquoise and orange. Gross. Whenever I happen upon a Dolphins game, I immediately become sympathetic to their opponent. ‘Opposites’ color schemes are pretty hit-or-miss. The Vikings pull it off pretty well. You know where I stand on the Mets. A red and green team would likely be a disaster (sorry, St. Patrick’s themed Red Sox jerseys). Maybe having grown up in the 90’s with a healthy amount of turquoise and orange in my wardrobe (relax, you did too) I developed an aversion to it as I got older. But I don’t mind the Florida Marlins uniforms- turquoise makes a nice accent color against a silver and black palette (this also rules out the idea that I have something against Florida… or sea life).. .

This is all a long way of saying that I’m conflicted about the selection of turquoise (Pantone 15-5519) as the Pantone Color of the Year 2010. Around this time last year, I (happily) wrote about the selection of Mimosa as the 2009 Color of the Year. This year I’m not totally sold. Is turquoise to blame for lending itself to such annoying color schemes as that of the Miami Dolphins? Or could any color -improperly paired- contribute to an equally bad color scheme? I’d love some feedback on this. I’m not ready to give up my all ‘mimosa’ wardrobe just yet…



Liz Nofziger’s Toscin at ZUMIX

We are just about done wrapping up construction at ZUMIX in East Boston, a community based performance center for youths. The center will be up and running in early 2010, but in the interim an installation by Liz Nofziger enlivens the performance space. I remember when we were in the demolition phase and Liz came by and tagged all these random objects that she wanted to use in the installation. Fast forward 12 months and we can see what she had envisioned.  

Here is a blurb from a review in the Boston Globe:

“Tocsin,’’ Liz Nofziger’s installation at Engine Company 40 Firehouse, a long-deserted, recently renovated space in East Boston, brings to mind Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.’’ There’s tintinnabulation, and as in Poe’s poem, which builds from the joyful sound of sleigh bells to the ghoulish toll of steeple bells, it isn’t all melodious. Rather, it’s both haunting and jarring – an installation you want to both linger in and run from. That combination is good.