Parks and Recreation: From Streetscape Elements to Site Furniture

Sheila Kim Sheila Kim

Chances are, if you live in a big city, you don’t have your own private oasis for enjoying the great outdoors. Fortunately, many of these same metropolises find ways to counter such a deficiency for their denizens by providing public spaces — from park and plaza to waterfront walks — and streetscape amenities and other special installations. In this first of a multipart “summer fun” series, we present some recent exciting urban amenity projects, along with a handful of our favorite site furniture, lighting and structures for creating fun, safe or simply restful outdoor amenities.

21 Balançoires, Montreal (Daily tous les jours with Luc-Alain Giraldeau and Radwan Ghazi Moumneh)
Talk about swing music, this installation returned to Montreal’s Promenade des Artistes for the sixth year. But it’s no ordinary swing set. Each of the 21 swings reproduces the sound of an instrument, ranging from a vibraphone to a guitar, and each musical note is determined by how high one swings. At night, the swings animate the site even further with individual illumination. The installation was erected in the spring, then on hiatus for the city’s rain season to pass, and will be returning for August 8 to September 5.

21 Balançoires; photography by Ulysse Lemerise/OSA images

ParkedBench, London (WMB Studio)
A portable “micro-park,” this slatted bench snaked onto a lot that was originally used as two parking spaces. Its undulations wrap planters on the street-facing side, providing a buffer between the traffic and the pedestrian sidewalk. The bench and base were constructed using standard scaffolding boards to keep within a tight budget.


Sky Garden, Istanbul (SO? Architecture and Ideas)
Equally for locals and tourists alike, the Sky Garden is both an interactive display and a shading canopy. As one of the busiest squares in the city, the site wasn’t ideal for housing ordinary planters on the ground. So the architects devised a geometric structure on which fabric-lined potted plants could be suspended. Each vessel is attached to another, creating a counterweight for when visitors pull any one down to view the plant.

Sky Garden; photography by Yerçekim

Slide Hill, New York City (West 8)
Set to open midsummer on New York’s Governors Island, The Hills is a park of — what else? — manmade hills. Rising up to 70 feet above sea level, the area commands panoramic views of both the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty and features a permanent installation by acclaimed British artist Rachel Whiteread. But what might be the biggest magnet is the park’s Slide Hill, a 40-foot-tall elevation that boasts four slides for visitors of all ages (one of which is said to be the longest slide in New York City at 57 feet long and three stories tall). Alongside the slides and on Discovery Hill, visitors can climb scrambles made entirely of granite blocks sourced from an old seawall that once stood on the island.

Rendering of Slide Hill

Slide Hill as of May 2016; photo by Timothy Schenck / Governors Island

The Hills view of Statue of Liberty; photo by Max Touhey

The Hills view of the New York City skyline; photo by Max Touhey

Tiovivo, Atlanta (Jaime Hayon)
Site of a temporary interactive installation each year, the Slater Sifly Piazza of Atlanta’s High Museum of Art has used this program as a means to animate the public space. For 2016, the institution selected Spanish designer Jaime Hayon to create a playground of sorts. His Tiovivo is a family of colorful, large-scale wooden structures modeled after animals or objects. Features such as slides, openings or stairs were integrated into each to allow for child’s play. (The installation remains on view through November 27, 2016.)

Tiovivo; photography by Jonathan Hillyer

Tiovivo’s creator, designer Jaime Hayon


3form: Chroma XT
The manufacturer’s proprietary material comes in more than 10,000 colors and is suitable for indoor-outdoor use in a variety of applications. For a plaza on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York, for instance, Gruzen Samton designed a sinuous bench (below) utilizing Chroma in Marigold*2 for the seat. At sundown, the bench comes alive with lighting.


AREA: Arpege Fontaine
It may look like a sleek column bollard, but Arpege Fontaine is really a drinking fountain. The stainless-steel unit is powder coated, while the top is polished to prevent staining. Its accompanying steel runoff grid catches any spilt water.


BURRI: SkateboardZ
Show some love for skateboards, longboards and scooters, too. Designed to secure all of the above, this rack is particularly ideal wherever young people gather, be it in a recreational area or school ground. Special slots are sized perfectly to fit standard skateboard wheels.


Diemmebi: Zeroquindici
This line of stainless steel or powder-coated steel tub site furniture includes individual benches and chaise lounges, sofas, tables, trash receptacles and even barbecue grills. But it also offers concave or convex seating modules that can be combined to create larger community seating areas in round or sinuous configurations. The seating units can be specified with or without back- and armrests.


Equiparc: Tango
Really a collaboration between Equiparc, lighting manufacturer Lumca and industrial design firm Morelli Designers, Tango is a comprehensive collection of site furniture that includes benches, planters, bollards, street lamps, tables and receptacles. But the highlight of the product family is the circular bike rack, which kills two birds with one stone by integrating lighting to provide path illumination (as well as illumination for the cyclist, if needed).


Forms+Surfaces: Bay City Bike Rack
A space-efficient design, the Bay City Bike Rack is a slim, angled loop that can be installed in a variety of ways, from straight or staggered rows to radial. Each unit is made of solid cast aluminum.


Free Play: The Ant Farm
With an obvious nod to its namesake, The Ant Farm is a clever play structure designed by award-winning architecture firm LTL Architects. It features a clear structure of polycarbonate walls sandwiching organic-shaped climbing tubes that look as if suspended in midair. Children can opt to climb inside the frame and onto the tubes or crawl through the tubes from one side of the exterior to the other.

Free Play

Landscape Forms: Outdoor Power by Legrand
The site furniture manufacturer has teamed up with electrical and lighting-control company Legrand to present a designer power station made to withstand the elements and commercial use. Three models are offered — two of which integrate ribbons of lighting — and each holds outputs for charging mobile devices via standard user cables.

Landscape Forms

Pacific Domes: Geodesic Climbing Domes
Jungle gyms get architectural when it’s in the form of a classic Bucky Fuller geodesic structure. Pacific Domes’ climbing frames are galvanized steel that can be powder coated in an array of colors. Options include removable weatherproof and fire-retardant covers and clear plastic windows. Sizes are available for preschool, kindergarten and grade school ages.

Pacific Domes

Spohn Ranch Skateparks: Custom Skateparks
The firm works with you to craft the ultimate skateboarder’s dream — from the design phase to build-out — in poured natural or tinted concrete. Fill the site with standard elements ranging from sloping contours and half-pipes to ramps, rails and steps.

Spohn Ranch Skateparks work for the Cape May County Skatepark in Ocean City, New Jersey

Vestre: Code Tilt
Inspired by building-block toys, Code Tilt is a series of four angled, galvanized-steel boxes that can be combined horizontally and vertically to create a range of seating configurations. Tops and sides can be completed with slatted FSC- or PEFC-certified pine from Scandinavia. The steel can be finished in any of 200 different RAL powder-coat colors. A fixed table-and-bench combination is also available.