Follow up: The Hills are Alive!

Based on the response we received from our previous “The Hills are Alive” posting, many people agree that putting a hill in a playground is a “must-do.” One reader commented on how to push the hill concept even further: “You should design a crater with a hill in the center!” Two days after he mentioned this, I happened to visit Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island and what did I encounter but the massive earthworks sculpture titled “The Source.” source 3 Built by artist John Hoge in 1980, this giant 220 foot diameter series of concentric hills and craters is “An earth and stone sculpture which recycles lake water abstracting the cyclical process of water.”  When my daughter saw it, she exclaimed “Ant hills!” and took off running.  We ended up spending more time romping around The Source than playing on the nearby structure. source 4 Additionally, a colleague pointed out another (future) hill of significance: the giant, sloped, grassy entry hill leading to the main entrance of Sammamish High School (currently under construction.)  As a member of this project team, I can vouch for the fact that the hill made the design.  After several months of workshops with teachers, students and community members, we whittled down our design concept to three options: a two-story “L” scheme, a two-story cluster scheme, and a three-story scheme.  Seeing as three-story schools are not common in Seattle, nobody really expected this scheme to garner much support.  There was one major detail, however: the entry to the three-story scheme was accessed on the second floor, which was in turn accessed via a long, sloping, grassy hill. CEFPI_SHS Great Lawn 1 Long story short, the three-story scheme was overwhelmingly selected by the community. Students loved the idea of hanging out on the “great lawn.” Neighbors were keen on the curb appeal of a large, open greenspace.  As designers, we were excited about the multiple levels of indoor/outdoor connections that were made possible by the hill. CEFPI_SHS Great Lawn 2 Given the affection for hills, how can we incorporate more interesting topography into our school designs?  Given competing forces of budget, maintenance and safety concerns, can a hill survive?

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