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ASLANY: 4 CEUs & a Beer – Playground Design Today: Inclusion, Innovation, and Maintenance


Thursday, March 21, 2024 @ 12:30 pm EDT
Thursday, March 21, 2024 @ 5:00 pm EDT


Center for Architecture
536 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012




Start: Thursday, March 21, 2024 @ 12:30 pm EDT
End: Thursday, March 21, 2024 @ 5:00 pm EDT



Playgrounds are an essential part of the urban landscape providing safe places for children to explore, learn, and develop physically and mentally. Our esteemed speakers will speak on all aspects of playground design today through three focused sessions structured around inclusion, innovation, and maintenance. 

Sessions: Play for All

Everyone Deserves a Chance to Play: Playground Design for All
Mary Alice Lee, Hon. ASLA, Director, NYC Playgrounds Program, Interim NYS Director, Trust for Public Land 

This presentation will explore how to make play more accessible in underserved urban areas. The discussion will focus on enabling users of all ages to get involved in the design, helping to create a well-utilized and well-loved playground.

The Science of Holistic Playground Design
Jennifer Nitzky, PLA, FASLA, ISA, Design Principal, Studio HIP

Play is a critical component for healthy childhood development but it is equally important for people of all ages. School playgrounds can provide many playful activities in dense urban environments that increase equitable access to open space, improve learning outcomes, and address environmental justice. This presentation will look at many aspects and benefits of lifelong play for healthier communities.

Politics of Design: Community Voice in Designing a Playground
Runit Chhaya, RLA, LEED AP, Founding Partner, Grain Collective 

The presentation will address the role of landscape architecture in design advocacy within underserved communities. In New York, minority households are often left behind when allocating appropriate funding or are often shortchanged on high-end design under the disguise of budget limitations. As designers, it is our responsibility to listen to these underserved communities and provide them with high-impact designs within the allocated budgets.

Session 2: Breaking the Mold

Inclusive Play Matters: Evidence-Based Design Best Practices for Play and Recreation Destinations
Jennie Sumrell, Community Outreach Director, Playcore

Thoughtfully breaking down both physical and social barriers to create a welcoming atmosphere and ensure parks and playgrounds intentionally support the developmental benefits of inclusive, intergenerational play! Research findings and new data offer unique insights to demonstrate environmental design’s positive impact on the whole child, the whole environment, and the whole community!

Immersive Nature Play and ADA
Jeffrey Poor, Partner and Studio Director, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners

Jeffrey will discuss universal access as a design driver at The Battery Playscape – a resilient play area designed to promote ecological literacy in children. The presentation will describe how making the Playscape universally accessible necessitated creative approaches to the project’s design goals. These included: introducing children to habitat variety and biodiversity; creating a resilient space that incorporates stormwater management into the play experience; balancing individual discovery with communal play; and encouraging a broad spectrum of awareness, from inwardly-focused tactility to outwardly-focused perception of one’s place in the environment.

Risk and Reward: Exploring the Challenges of Creative Play Space Innovation
Nathan Schleicher, BA, CPSI, Concept Design Lead, Earthscape

A surprisingly small part of the process of innovation is being artistic.  While this quality is an essential fuel, in designing unique play spaces, a substantial proportion of the process is navigating constraints and standards, managing risk, and convincing others that all this will be worthwhile.  Vetting wildly creative ideas against constructability or safety standards may seem like a straightforward go/no-go process, but standards have their limitations. Many clients and collaborators present innovative ideas that lie far beyond conventional boundaries. They are looking for professionals who can identify and manage the risks to help them achieve their creative goals without sacrificing innovation. This presentation will look at a sampling from unconventional playground design case studies where navigating risks and hazards resulted in challenging, joyful, and beautiful designs.

Session 3: Designing with Maintenance in Mind

Designing Low-Maintenance Urban Playgrounds
Nicholas Magilton, RLA, Director of Landscape Architecture Design Resources, NYC-Parks

A typical NYC public playground is designed to maximize play value in a limited space, connect well with its neighborhood, provide comfortable seating, meet ADA design standards, manage stormwater, increase tree canopy, and bring nature closer to people in the City. At the same time, given the agency’s limited resources, the playground needs to be designed to withstand intensive use and minimal maintenance. This presentation will illustrate how new materials are piloted in playgrounds and how standard materials have been modified over time to improve durability and maintenance.

The Design of Maintaining Central Park’s Playgrounds
Bob Rumsey, PLA. Landscape Studio Director, Central Park Conservancy

The Central Park Conservancy’s 2011 Plan for Play Campaign launched the rehabilitation of the Park’s twenty-one playgrounds, led by the organization’s in-house team of landscape architects. The Conservancy’s unique operating model, which includes design staff and facilities maintenance, creates a continuous feedback loop that impacts the playgrounds’ design, material decisions, and replacement strategies. 

Planning for Maintenance: The secret to playground longevity and success
Julia Rousakis, Co-Founder and Principal, APE Studio Inc.

A playground’s longevity and success correlate directly to the resources allocated and maintenance planning performed from the early design stages. This presentation will address what maintenance burdens designers can anticipate and alleviate and how to prepare and manage the varying efforts required to maintain spaces of all sizes–from a neighborhood space to a high-traffic destination play environment.



Nicholas Koster



4 CEUs Pending

Happy Hour 5-7


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