I read about this astounding new play area this week and had to go down to see it immediately. It's in the Parc de Belleville, one of my favourite parks in Paris for several reasons:
- it's on a hill that gives amazing views over Paris,
- lots of leafy alleys, great for strolling,
- ramps everywhere, making it completely wheelchair-friendly,
- loads of fountains and water, refreshing in summer,
- great flower beds and plenty of grass to lie around on,
and now, the most amazing play area I think I've ever seen. Designed by the BASE landscape design agency at a cost of 1.1K€ ($1.6M/£870K) and two years in the making, it's a refreshing change from the wooden castles or gaudy animals on giant springs that are standard playground fare. And whereas most children's play areas are about maximum security for out little cherubs, this one is based on judging risk. It's set on a 30° slope with different areas for different ages. Children can clearly see what they are getting into before trying an area, teaching them to anticipate problems and know their limits, rather than nannying them with a completely flat soulless plain of rubberised safety.
Replacing (and grafted onto the remains of) a previous all-wooden structure that had been closed for the last six years after subsidence, it's the sort of area I would have absolutely loved as a kid. As a photographer, I was inspired by the graphic nature of the various structures, almost abstract in some cases...
Plus, the views from the top of the park are amazing...
Ironically (for a play area based on risk assessment) and almost inevitably (in this age of new puritanism) I had a run in with the park guards.
Whilst taking photos, one of them came up to me, told me to stop and said that I had to have a permit. I told him that he was wrong; in a public place you don't need a permit to photograph. He said that it was in the park regulations, and asked me what I was going to do with the photos. I said that I wouldn't answer that question as he had no right to ask. He said something like "plus, there are children about" although it was very obvious that I was taking photos of the structure more than anything. I told him that he was ridiculous, continued taking photos and he walked off.
Directly afterwards I checked out the park regulations and article 25 expressly states that photography is allowed.
So I went back to see him and told him that he was very obviously wrong about the park regulations. He said "no, you do need a permit when there are children around." At this point I gave up, told him that he should stop talking rubbish to people and left. Just when did society get so touchy about this? How could one take photos in a public park and not have a few stray kids in them? We shouldn't let over-zealous jobsworths gnaw away at civil liberties like this. Know your rights and don't be intimidated!
Anyway, I would recommend a trip to the Parc de Belleville if you're in Paris. It's great whether you're with or without kids.
Check out my Flickr set, showing more of the play area, the greenery and the views.
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