P#3 P: Blue Slide Playground

Blue Slide Playground is a part of Frick Park and geared largely toward the families of Pittsburgh. I felt that its colorful, accessible, playful, and hilly qualities as well as its child-friendly, creative, engaging nature was perfect for delivering an aesthetic and environmental message for the public to engage in.

The project was most inspired by the designer of the park, John O. Simonds’ claim: “what child doesn’t like to roll down a hillside?” Ironically, his comment came with having to reconstruct a naturally occurring hill for an artificial alternative with concrete covering what was once a grassy mound of dirt. Now, the area around the slide is covered in a rubber and concrete mix painted in green—perhaps in effort to make it seem grassier. I wanted to transform the purpose and appearance of the slide and depict it as a shallow creak or stream of water by decorating and lining flora along the hillside and pouring water over the slide. The project serves as a recognition of the park’s natural hillside before its reconstruction and a child-friendly way of thinking about the environment.

I began by collecting branches and leaves from the surroundings, specifically ones that were already twisty, flexible, and easily manipulated. Then, I knotted them together and intertwined the stems to create a spiraling loop. The branches were wrapped around the metal bars atop the slide to add a sculptural aspect to the slide, and bits of wood, dirt, and foliage was strewn along the slide for an added effect. Because it had rained recently, the branches were wet and therefore easily moldable. A problem arose when Frick Park’s bathrooms and water fountains were locked for the winter due to the potential freezing of the water, and wouldn’t be reopened until the end of the month; the water I brought didn’t suffice, so I had to collect some of the muddy rainwater in the nearby puddles. However, I felt that it was to my advantage, since it seemed to have made the project more realistic and natural, with less of a mess to deal with than pouring large amounts of water down a kids’ slide with no drainage system. Overall, I took a variety of videos and pictures throughout the entire process, focusing on the close-ups as well as the distanced shots as requested.

Even with the presence of the water issue, I felt that the branches around the bars were executed well. It was interesting to see the branches curve around each other as well as the bars themselves, appearing almost like the clamoring of vines easily observed on wooden fences. I think the project was effective in minimally recreating the beauty of nature and its prevalence over man-made structures; it was fascinating to see the harmonization of nature and artificiality and how they interact with each other play out in a smaller scale accessible to all types of people.

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