Exploring “Equity in Play” at the Seattle Design Festival

The 2015 Seattle Design Festival is fast approaching and this year’s event promises to be the biggest to date.  Billed as a celebration of “the ways design makes life better,” SDF 2015 will feature a weekend block party, design-based tours, workshops and lectures, and a “PARKing Day” event in which teams take to the streets throughout the city and transform parking spaces into mini-park/art installations.

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The theme of SDF 2015 is “Design for Equity.” Organizers have challenged teams to “question our biases and assumptions and work toward ensuring that everyone in our society – from every background, ability, race, age, gender, location or economic status – can access the same opportunities and outcomes, both now and in the future.”  So what might “design for equity” look like, in both concept and architectural expression?

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As school designers, issues of equity in education are at the forefront of our architectural thinking and practice.  But rather than focus on a school building or a classroom layout, we decided to focus on an activity that is increasingly seen as fundamental to learning: PLAY.

To this end, we believe access to a diversity of play experiences for children of all abilities and backgrounds is fundamental to support EQUITY IN LEARNING. We challenge the notion that play should only take place within the time constraints of recess and the spatial definition of the playground.

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In thinking about how to increase equity in play, we have identified four “play-for-all” principles:

1. INCREASE ACCESS. Identify ways to integrate play into everyday life.

2. DECREASE COST. Explore how to recycle/repurpose everyday materials in a playful and elegant way.

3. DIVERSE MODALITIES. Frequently, play is synonymous with large-motor activities (climbing, jumping, sliding) and visually-oriented games. What about playing with sound or texture?  How about a game in which all players have limited mobility?

4. OPEN-ENDED SIMPLICITY. No instructions, no right or wrong way to play.

So what does “play for all” look like? We have some ideas, but we want to hear yours as well. Join us at the Seattle Design Festival September 12-25 and be part of our equity in play exploration!

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