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Burling Slip's Imagination Playground Opens its Mind to Downtown

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"We're breaking the mold here. This breaks all our normal rules." Such were the promises of designer David Rockwell back in the waning days of 2006 when his firm proposed that a chunk of cobblestones at downtown's Burling Slip—then serving as a parking lot for Economic Development Corp. administrators and their dear friends—become a playground. But not just any playground! A playground based on the imagination. And after the typical skirmishes that accompany such ideas, the South Street Seaport-area project got underway. And then, at noon today, the playground—dubbed, yes, Imagination Playground—opened to the public. Naturally, we showed up to find out just what these folks were thinking.

The playground—the entirety of which is encased in a hull reminiscent of a ship, not the first or the last nautical referent that shall be found herein—breaks neatly into an east and a west end. Down at the west end, three mast-like towers form the primary element, with pully systems to play with. Plus, there's a cool tube slide! For the imagination part, look no further than the piles of styrofoam pieces that await children. The plucky lot that we spied playing there while Mayor Bloomberg spoke took little time putting the styrofoam balls to their preferred use that echoes through the generations: pegging each other. Hard.

Down at the west end, things get wet with a water feature that encourages the use of PVC tubing and the like to create flowing waterworks. Damn cool. It's surrounded by gentle wood risers which give a view of the whole, though could stand for a touch more shade. And in the middle, there's a big red tower overlooking the whole park.

So in what other ways did the project "break all our normal rules"? Well, Rockwell & Co. did the project pro-bono, so props to that. And although at the end of the day this is really just a playground with some extra moving pieces, it's a damn nice playground, and something we'd certainly circumambulate the city to see.
· All Burling Slip Playground Coverage [Curbed]

Imagination Playground

John Street at South Street, New York, NY