“Children want four things: a swing, a seesaw, a slide, and a merry-go-round,” said Mr Khor Ean Ghee, designer for many of our HDB playgrounds.
From our parents’ time to the new generation, playgrounds have evolved to become more sophisticated than ever. But there is one thing that has not changed, and probably will never change — the element of innocent, unbounded fun.
The playground is a sacred space to children, and maybe to the parents. It is a congregation point for all, where differences are set aside for play, where worries are abandoned and imaginations run wild. A child once shared that he imagined he was taming and riding with the dragons amidst the clouds as he climbed to the top of the famous dragon playground at Toa Payoh. The elation on his face, and wonder, is a gift that has been bestowed upon him by playgrounds, and those who created them.
National Museum of Singapore opens The More We Get Together: Singapore’s Playgrounds 1930–2030, a key exhibition that will run till September 30th. The interactive exhibition will be both educational and fun for everyone, no matter your age, race, gender or creed.
These playgrounds, iconic and well-loved landmarks of our HDB estates, first started out as open fields and empty compounds, amidst the long kangs (canals) and shophouses. Then came the first dedicated public children’s playground at Dhoby Ghaut in 1928, equipped with a swing and a slide. It was a hotspot for children, no matter the time of day. Fast forward to 2018, we have since thrown in aesthetics and pragmatic designs, with a touch of innovation.
You would never have guessed the enormous planning and work that goes behind every single playground till you have swung, slid and snaked your way through the exhibition. The designers have to uphold at least seven principles of play for each of the playground structures. Safety is also a vital factor in a playground’s design, as with weather-proofing.
A fine example is our sandpit, if you’ve ever wondered why our sandpits never ever see waterlogs even during the infamous equatorial monsoons, it is because of the ingenious designing behind a simple plaything, with the semi-permeable layer allowing only water to seep through but not sand. You can find out more details at the exhibition.
We look to the past to shape our future. What our future playgrounds look like will depend on the functionality of current playgrounds and the whims of the future generations. They are not simply just for play. They are the building blocks of a child’s life, culture, and an important thread in our social fabric.