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Play Place : An agonistic intervention for Vancouver City Hall Reindl, Stefan 2020-12

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PLAY PLACE:AN AGONISTIC INTERVENTION FOR VANCOUVER CITY HALLStefan ReindlBachelor of Arts, Carleton University, November 10, 2012Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Architecture in The Faculty of Graduate Studies, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Architecture ProgramCommittee chair: Sara StevensCommittee members: Julia Jamrozik, Alison Maddaugh, Bill Pechet© December 2020iiThe City of Vancouver’s new Department of Agonistics has its sights set on Helena Gutteridge Plaza. Combining the theories of Chantal Mouffe on agonistic public space with the writings of Johan Huizinga on the play-element of human culture, the Department of Agonistics provides a new model for diagnosing and treated failed public spaces. By embracing the playground as a model for agonistic social infrastructure, this project aims to return spaces such as Helena Gutteridge Plaza to the public as sites for spontaneity, expression, and togetherness so that the participatory nature of urban life can be realized and counter-hegemonic narratives may emerge. ABSTRACTiiiTABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract ................................................................................................................ iiTable of Contents ................................................................................................. iiiAcknowledgments ............................................................................................... ivList of Figures............................................................................................................vSECTION I: Thesis Framework ...............................................................................1Foreword from the Department of Agonistics ......................................................2Part I | Play, Agonism and Human Nature .............................................................3Part II | History of the Playground ......................................................................10Part III | Contemporary Approaches ...................................................................17Conclusion ..........................................................................................................22SECTION II: Site Documentation + Analysis ........................................................23SECTION III: Design Resolution  ..........................................................................43References ..........................................................................................................65ivSpecial thanks to Tricia Tecson who provided production assistance.Thanks to Sara Stevens, Julia Jamrozik, Alison Maddaugh and Bill Pechet for believing in the project through thick and thin.ACKNOWLEDGMENTSvLIST OF FIGURESFig. 1: Agonism diagram ......................................................................................25Fig. 2: Site context diagram 1 ..............................................................................27Fig. 3: Site context diagram 2 ..............................................................................27Fig. 4: Site inventory diagram ..............................................................................29Fig. 5: Site circulation diagram ............................................................................29Fig. 6: Corner of Yukon and 10th, photo .............................................................31Fig. 7: 10th Ave facade, photo ............................................................................31Fig. 8: Corner of Yukon and 10th, photo .............................................................31Fig. 9: Plaza looking North, photo .......................................................................32Fig. 10: Plaza looking South, photo .....................................................................32Fig. 11: Yukon facade, photo ...............................................................................33Fig. 12: West parkade wall, photo .......................................................................33Fig. 13: West parkade wall looking North, photo ................................................34Fig. 14: Main path looking uphill, photo .............................................................34Fig. 15: City Hall from plaza, photo .....................................................................35Fig. 16: Statue of George Vancouver, photo ........................................................37Fig. 17: Architecture of alienation diagram .........................................................37Fig. 18: Helena Gutteridge plaque, photo ...........................................................39Fig. 19: Existing site section, North-South ...........................................................40Fig. 20: Existing site section, East-West ...............................................................41Fig. 21: Existing site plan .....................................................................................42Fig. 22: Play structure vocabulary sketches .........................................................45Fig. 23: Proposed topography plan .....................................................................47Fig. 24: Proposed bird’s eye plan ........................................................................49Fig. 25: Proposed interior diagram ......................................................................50Fig. 26: Proposed site section, North-South ........................................................51Fig. 27: Proposed site section, North-South, detail .............................................53Fig. 28: Corner of Cambie and 10th, perspective ................................................55Fig. 29: 10th Ave facade, perspective .................................................................57Fig. 30: Yukon facade, perspective ......................................................................57Fig. 31: Axonometric detail 1 ..............................................................................59Fig. 32: Axonometric detail 2 ..............................................................................59Fig. 33: Axonometric detail 3 ..............................................................................61Fig. 34: Axonometric detail 4 ..............................................................................61Fig. 31: Axonometric perspective .................................................................. 62-631SECTION ITHESIS FRAMEWORK2 The Department of Agonistics is deeply concerned that Western city planning has minimized the centrality of the play-element of human culture to the detriment of the urban populace, instead adopting an approach to public space that embraces seriousness over silliness, security over riskiness, and hegemony over critical engagement. Despite a growing appreciation for the bespoke and site-specific in architecture and urban planning, places for play largely remain plagued by generic solutions, engineered for cost-effectiveness rather than for fostering creative engagement. While playgrounds enjoyed a brief era of intense interest among architects in the early twentieth century owing to bottom-up urbanism initiatives and postwar enthusiasm for child welfare, in the latter half of the twentieth century, cultural and economic pressures imposed new constraints, placing on today’s architects the imperative to reify the playground’s community-oriented roots if they are to be salvaged as an urban strategy. Public spaces must be designed for play and to redefine the typologies of the playground and the plaza in a way that invites everyone to exercise their right to play by offering risky and thrilling experiences, and empowering users to discover subjective meaning so that interaction and civic engagement are given a permanent, public venue in the city, the shared sense-making functions of architecture and play are illuminated, and that the centrality of play in human culture is held aloft as a core concern for architects. FOREWORD FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF AGONISTICS3 Play has been at the heart of human nature long before it was understood to be so. In the 1560 painting Children’s Games by Flemish master Pieter Brueghel the Elder, a scene that appears at first glace to be a violent riot takes place in a village street. The sheer proliferation of human bodies in unfamiliar states immediately calls to mind the tortured souls and demonic creatures of Hieronymus Bosch. On closer inspection, the ‘rioters’ can be made out to be children engaging in an encyclopedic display of fun and games. These activities span from the simple and individual, such as performing a handstand, to the complex and collective, as in mock rituals of marriage and baptism. Many of the activities depicted involve toys or everyday structures appropriated and creatively reinterpreted. The few buildings in focus -the central one appearing to be a town hall or other civic building judging from its Gothic ornamentation- are completely overtaken by children, dangling precariously from each window, and occupying every doorway. While the precise history of the painting is uncertain, a popular interpretation is that Brueghel intended to reflect a moral propagated through Flemish literature a few decades prior: that the concerns of mankind are indistinguishable from children’s games in the eyes of the Almighty.1 By using play as a metaphor for everything self-absorbed and unholy about humanity’s day-to-day obsessions, Breughel wrote play off as essentially worthless, reserved only for children and fools. However, in addition to creating an enthralling catalogue of historic Netherlandish play, he also inadvertently captured the power of play to engage people creatively with one another and with the urban environment they find themselves in. A modern-day viewer might be inclined to discount the judgment of Brueghel’s God entirely and realize play’s powers of expression, transgression, and engagement with the social and physical material of the city.  The interest in the importance of play in human nature likely began in the late eighteenth century. The German playwright, poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller wrote in his Aesthetic Letters of 1793 that “man only plays when he is a man in the full meaning of the word, and he is only completely a man when he plays… man is never so serious as when he plays.”2 Schiller provided a counterargument to the followers of Immanuel Kant, undercutting the notion that reason ought to be the strategy in decision-making, by declaring that the 1  Pietro Allegretti, Brueghel (Milan: Skira, 2003).2  Friedrich Schiller, The Aesthetic Letters (Boston: Little Brown, 1920), Letter 15.PART I | PLAY, AGONISM AND HUMAN NATURE4“play drive” component of human nature could produce an aesthetic utopia and “tame the savageness of life” if this drive were able to act freely upon the world. Others began to investigate the role that play had in the development of human minds in the following century. Swiss psychologist Karl Groos studied the play of animals and extended his findings to human behaviour in a pair of publications circa 1896-1899, noting how the imitation of adult habits in the play of young animals appeared to be mirrored in human children.3 This may appear to be common sense, as almost anyone has seen a kitten engaged in mock hunting or a child conducting important business on an imaginary phone. However, Sigmund Freud built extensively on the psychological theories surrounding play, arguing in 1908 that adult creativity “is a continuation of, and a substitute for” childhood play, thereby providing a mirrored counterpart to the adulthood-facing mimicry play noted by Groos.4 Jean Piaget was similarly interested in the role of play in a child’s construction of reality as early as 1936, when Play, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood was first published. Arguably the most influential writing on play and human nature is Homo Ludens, written by Dutch historian Johann Huizinga in 1938. Huizinga was motivated by what he saw as a decline in the play-element of culture in his own time.5 Huizinga was clear-eyed about the significance of play, writing that “it adorns life, amplifies it and is to that extent a necessity both for the individual -as a life function- and for society by reason if the meaning it contains…its expressive value, its spiritual and cultural associations, in short, as a cultural function.”6 The Dutch word for play “aardkigkeit”, Huizinga noted, is derived from the Dutch word for “art” and the German for “being”.7 Huizinga wrote that play “is free, is in fact freedom,” and that it “is not ‘ordinary’ or ‘real’ life. It is rather a stepping out of ‘real’ life into a temporary sphere of activity with a disposition all of its own.”8 He further defined play as “superfluous” and “the opposite of seriousness”.9 However, he also noted that “the inferiority of play is continually being offset by the corresponding superiority of its seriousness. Play turns to seriousness and seriousness to 3  Karl Groos, The Play of Animals, 1896 (New York, Appleton, 1898) and Karl Groos, The Play of Man, 1899 (New York, Appleton, 1901).4  Sigmund Freud, “Creative Writers and Daydreaming,” Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, (London: 1965), 141-153.5  Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens; a study of the play-element in culture, (London: Routledge, 1949), 206. 6  Ibid, 9. 7  Ibid, 3.8  Ibid, 8.9 Ibid, 5-8.5play.”10  This seemingly contradictory nature of play is an inherent component of its function and is replete in Huizinga’s writing on the matter. A prominent example of this is Huizinga’s insistence that play is essentially irrational while also being meaningful and highly ordered. On one hand, Huizinga holds that because non-human animals also play, “it cannot have its foundation in any rational nexus,”11 noting that “we play and know that we play, so we must be more than merely rational beings, for play is irrational.”12 He also noted that “play lies outside the antithesis of wisdom and folly, and equally outside those of truth and falsehood, good and evil…it has no moral function.”13 In fact, he goes so far as to say that “play only becomes possible, thinkable and understandable when an influx of mind breaks down the absolute determinism of the cosmos.”14 In stark contrast, he also declares that “all play means something” but this is not contradictory in Huizinga’s eyes. As he explains, it is precisely because play is irrational that it must be meaningful, for “play is more than a mere physiological phenomenon or a psychological reflex. It goes beyond the confines of purely physical or purely biological activity. It is a significant function -that is to say, there is some sense to it. In play there is something ‘at play’ which transcends the immediate needs of life and imparts meaning to the action.” For Huizinga, humanity’s decision to engage in play -irrationality manifest- is proof that play must have value.  Central to Huizinga’s theory is the notion that play lies at the foundation of all “the great archetypal activities of human society.”15 “Genuine, pure play is one of the main bases of civilization,” he wrote, continuing, “Law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primaeval soil of play.”16 For Huizinga, play is an undeniable fact; “You can deny life, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play.”17 However, in yet another pseudo-contradiction, Huizinga posits that, despite the absolute universality of play, another of its key characteristics is “its secluded-ness, its limitedness.”18 Due to play’s existence outside the 10  Ibid.11  Ibid, 3.12  Ibid, 4.13  Ibid, 6.14  Ibid, 3.15  Ibid, 4..16  Ibid, 5.17  Ibid, 3.18  Ibid, 9.6ordinary in terms of behaviour, it follows that it takes place in extraordinary locations and moments. As Huizinga puts it, “the exceptional and special position of play is most tellingly illustrated by the fact that it loves to surround itself with an air of secrecy. Even in childhood, the charm of play is enhanced by making a ‘secret’ of it.”19 Despite play being the embodiment of freedom to Huizinga, a key element of what makes play feel magical is its affinity for rules and order. “All play has its rules,” he writes, “Indeed as soon as the rules are transgressed the whole play-world collapses. The game is over. The umpire’s whistle breaks the spell and sets ‘real’ life going again.”20 Huizinga goes even further, explicitly stating that play “creates order, is order. Into an imperfect world and into the confusion of life it brings a temporary, a limited perfection. Play demands order absolute and supreme.”21 A key component of the ordering of play is the boundedness of the place in which it happens -the “play-ground”- where “an absolute and peculiar order reigns” and which Huizinga compares to places of spiritual and civic ritual, such as the magic circle, the temple and the court of justice, “i.e. forbidden spots, isolated, hedged round, hallowed, within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart.”  Huizinga also makes the connection between play and aesthetics through their shared affinity for order. While he argues that beauty is not inherent to play, “play has a tendency to be beautiful” because it is permeated with the human “impulse to create orderly form.”22 Huizinga notes how the verbiage used to describe play is largely borrowed from the realm aesthetics, particularly those with which we try to describe the effects of beauty: “tension, poise, balance, contrast, variation, solution, resolution, etc... (Play) is invested with the noblest qualities we are capable of perceiving in things: rhythm and harmony.” The rules which lend play its formal characteristics are intimately related to its civilizing function in society. According to Huizinga, rules subvert the aggressive component of competition -the result of a human “urge to be first”- by providing a framework against which the contributions of each competitor may be properly judged.23 19  Ibid, 11.20  Ibid.21  Ibid, 10.22  Ibid.23  Liane Lefaivre, “Ground-Up City: The Place of Play,” in Ground-Up City: Play as A Design Tool, Liane Lefaivre and Döll (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2007), 41.7Orderly, competitive play extends beyond its obvious, physical embodiments of sports and games to the realm of ideas and the mind as well. In a chapter titled “Playing and Knowing”, Huizinga explores how “agonistic customs” across human cultures bear striking similarities when it comes to competitions of knowledge and wisdom.24 The “riddle-contest”, a “sacred game” of “ritual combat…which vouchsafes the divine decision,” can be found throughout human history.25 Huizinga notes how “a strong sense of the agonistic structure of the universe” is a defining characteristic of ancient philosophies the world over.26 “The processes in life and the cosmos are seen as the eternal conflict of opposites which is the root-principle of existence, like the Chinese yin and yang…Man has long been accustomed to think of everything as cleft into opposites and dominated by conflict.”27  This competitive conception of the realm of ideas has multiple resonances in contemporary theories on public space, art, and architecture. In her 2013 book Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically, Chantal Mouffe articulates her position on the political role of art in public space. For Mouffe, “critical art” has the power to challenge hegemony and to spark social change, even when it fails to create total transformation because “its critical dimension consists in making visible what the dominant consensus tends to obscure and obliterate, in giving a voice to all those who are silenced within the framework of the existing hegemony.”28 There is no such thing as non-political art, according to Mouffe; “Artistic practices, play a role in the constitution and maintenance of a given symbolic order, or in its challenging, and this is why they necessarily have a political dimension.”29 Public spaces are of extreme importance to Mouffe because they essentially constitute the physical and conceptual framework upon which ideas may be championed and challenged in full view of the general populace. She positions her stance in contrast to that of Jürgen Habermas, who held that the “public sphere” was a place where logical deliberation could take place, ideally resulting in a “rational consensus.”30 Contrastingly, Mouffe argues her perspective that “the public space is where conflicting points of view are confronted without any possibility of a final reconciliation.” She clarifies, 24  Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens; a study of the play-element in culture, (London: Routledge, 1949), 105.25  Ibid, 118.26  Ibid, 116.27  Ibid, 116-117.28  Chantal Mouffe, Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically, Verso (2013): 93.29  Ibid, 91.30  Ibid, 92.8“one of the main tenets of agonistics is that the kind of rational consensus which Habermas’s approach postulates is a conceptual impossibility because it presupposes the availability of a consensus without exclusion.” Mouffe is careful to highlight the design implications in her call for agonistic public spaces, arguing that in order for critical art to have fertile ground to operate upon, public spaces must be designed with the expressed intent of providing space for agonism “because those who foster the creation of agonistic public spaces will conceive critical art in a very different way than those whose aim is the creation of consensus.”31 In this way, environmental design has the potential to not merely contribute to public discourse, but to define, order, permit or forbid voices and perspectives within the discourse.   Markus Breitschmid and Valerio Olgiati call for a similarly counter-hegemonic approach to architectural design in their 2018 book Non-Referential Architecture (Olgiati credits himself with “ideating” the book so he will henceforth be referred to as the sole author). Olgiati positions the book as a response to what he sees as the non-referential world of the 21st century, in which we all live and some of us hope to practice architecture. This is an age that is fundamentally different from the past; gone are the days when stable references could lend architectural projects fixed meaning outside of the architecture itself. Such reference points historically included dominant religious, political, or cultural institutions, which maintained a grip on public discourse by defining the parameters of meaning through the symbolic repetition of the hegemonic narrative and the exclusion of all others. The current age is defined by a lack of such stable references. Therefore, in order for architecture to remain “generally true” and to address the “transcendental homelessness of humanity”, it must adapt to be free of extra-architectural content.32 This requires architecture to become exclusively about architectural ideas; that is to say, ideas which are both “form-generating” and “sense-making.”33 For Olgiati, there is a causal relationship between the two; simply put, “form causes an experience that is sense-making.”34 Sense-making is the purpose -the “why”- of non-referential architecture. Olgiati refers to sense-making as “a truth argument” but “not a moral quest.” Sense-making deals with sensory knowledge that creatively enlivens the minds of a building’s occupants. After describing the problem of continuing to 31  Ibid, 92.32  Valerio Olgiati and Markus Breitschmid, Non-referential architecture, (Zurich: Park Books, 2018), 35.33  Ibid, 51.34  Ibid, 31.9practice referential architecture in the non-referential world, Olgiati outlines his principles for how to conceive non-referential architecture that is sense-making and engages people creatively: Experience of Space; Oneness; Newness; Construction; Contradiction; Order (and Sense-Making, which also makes an appearance on the list of principles, though it is the goal of, rather than a strategy for creating, non-referential architecture). Experience of Space is given primacy because Olgiati holds that the experience of the occupant is generally universal and should be the focus of the architect’s formal intent. Oneness refers to the imperative for the architect to engage with form architectonically so that the building may be read syntactically rather than semantically, in the absence of extra-architectural references. Newness is a decision made with care so that occupants are creatively engaged by novelty without being completely bewildered. Construction has to do with the choice of material, which Olgiati insists must be intentional and consequential to the building’s syntax, though not directly caused by the architectural idea. Contradiction, like Newness, has to do with engaging the occupant creatively, by suspending them mentally between imagination and conceptualization, never allowing them a full retreat into either state. In this way, non-referential architecture can be didactic, though it should never aspire to be “educational.”35 Olgiati cautions that mere contrast is not the same as contradiction, and that the architect should not assume that contradictions are inherently subversive. Order has to do with the way the idea is applied to produce a building. For Olgiati, this process ought to be mostly deductive -that is, reasoned and well-justified- though inductive processes can have their place in design. The decision of when to use which type of process is distinct from the architect’s ideology, and should not preclude, for example, a designer with affinities for “bottom-up” principles from engaging in top-down design. The final chapter entitled “Authorship” undermines Olgiati’s counter-hegemonic and agonistic credibility to a great degree, and bears challenging here. Olgiati follows up his list of principles for non-referential architecture by insisting upon a renewed embrace of the age-old myth of the genius of the individual architect, arguing that a speculative dimension -which can only come from uncontested individual authorship- is necessary for architecture to be truly sense-making. While this view of the architect as a kind of artist is consistent with Olgiati’s Kantian conception of aesthetics, it betrays the author’s weakness for putting his own ego first, ahead of “giving a voice to those who are silenced” as Mouffe urges. It also displays a profound ignorance of the immense privilege afforded by those who have the resources to attend 35  Ibid, 107-109.10architecture school. If Olgiati had his way, and the elite class of architects (who, in the West are predominantly white males and to say nothing of the uncredited, unlicensed, underpaid, architectural and trade labourers who actually do the work of making architecture happen) were to have totalitarian control over all environmental design projects, what would follow would be Mouffe’s nightmare -public spaces of consensus rather than critical conflict and the further entrenchment of the dominant power structure. Architecture must be participatory if it aspires to upset hegemonic order and make irrelevant the extra-architectural references from which it draws power.  It should come as no surprise that the development of built places for play over the past few centuries was -and in many ways, still is- steered by hegemonic power and its output riddled with referential and/or “educational” characteristics. The playground as we know it has its roots in the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.36 With his 1762 publication Émile, ou De l’éducation, Rousseau introduced the notion of stages of psychological development, which separated childhood from adult life. Embedded in this was the imperative for children to receive a distinct, deliberately constructed education through a medium that they were receptive to: play. This play was not to be one of free expression and self-defined exploration; on the contrary, it was to be highly curated to sculpt the child’s mind in such a way as to a produce a virtuous and reasoning adult.  What resulted from Rousseau’s theories were outdoor “gymnasia”, first in Germany before being adopted by the US, designed for the singular purpose of training children in physical competency and its nationalistic associations. These play structures were almost exclusively located on school grounds and their popularity rose alongside the concept of recess. Some 19th century educators took a more balanced approach. At Frederick Froebel’s first kindergarten in Germany, 1837, directed, educational play was offset by periods of “free play” often involving natural environments and materials.37 He also popularized the vocabulary of children’s toys still seen today, often involving elemental forms in bright colours. Froebel introduced the notion that fostering creativity through self-directed expression was crucial for the development of young minds. This idea was 36  Joe Frost, Evolution of American Playgrounds, Scholarpedia, (2012). 37  Ibid.PART II | HISTORY OF THE PLAYGROUND11hotly contested in childcare philosophy circles, though ultimately the popularity of the kindergarten movement made the outdoor gymnasium obsolete by the mid-1800s.  Ironically, this century of renewed interest in childhood, imagination, and play -fueled by rising fears that the industrialized city was a corrupting influence on humanity- took place against the backdrop of widespread child labour and slum conditions in many Western cities. It was not until the 1880s that there was enough political impetus to provide some play infrastructure for the young inhabitants of these slums, resulting in the first “sand garden” playgrounds in Berlin, later exported to the US.38 While viewed as entirely provisional at the time -they were, after all, just piles of sand on publicly accessible land- the play-value of sand has since been well-documented. These American sand gardens were such a success that they can be credited with creating the first serious play movement in the country.39 While it would still be another couple decades before child labour would be fully outlawed in the West, by 1906 America had its first Playground Association and in 1909, the state of Massachusetts would pass an act ordering all towns with over 10,000 inhabitants to construct playgrounds.40 Unfortunately, the sand piles would be lost in the rush to meet this enormous demand and the first “model playgrounds” would take their place. These precursors to the mass-produced play equipment which dominates the contemporary world of playground design took familiar forms: swing sets; monkey bars; see-saws; maypoles. Largely made of prefabricated steel tubing and chains, model playgrounds spread rapidly across the US, first under the banner of child welfare and later at the behest of President Roosevelt, whose 1933 Works Progress Administration ordered the construction of infrastructure projects -including a great many playgrounds- across the Depression-struck nation.  For a moment it might have appeared that nothing would stand in the way of the child welfare project and the playground movement in the West -then the Second World War broke out. Many of the playgrounds installed under Roosevelt were ripped out and melted down for the war effort.41 As Nazi forces spread across Europe and beyond, play was sidelined even further to the margins of public life. This was most strikingly the case in cities under Nazi occupation, where children took to playing in junkyards, abandoned buildings and vacant lots in the absence of 38  Ibid.39  Ibid.40  Ibid.41  Ibid.12a schoolyard regimen. Carl Theodor Sørensen, a Danish landscape architect, had noticed children’s attraction to such sites before the war but was finally moved to put his ideas into action in 1943, when Germans patrolled the streets of Copenhagen. Sørensen’s “junk playground” in the suburb of Emdrup proposed an explicit critique of the conventional model playground.42 While the “adventure playground,” as it would later be known, required the presence of a “play leader” who guided the use of tools and materials, there was no readymade play equipment, no agenda for what should take place. The onus was on children themselves to generate content and subjective meaning through their own interventions on the playground. Loose materials such as sand, bricks, boards, and nails were provided alongside basic tools and natural elements like fire and water. Contrary to the approach of modernist designers (such as Isamu Noguchi and Aldo Van Eyck, who we’ve yet to discuss) whose impulse towards abstraction was born out of an affinity for the theories of Froebel, Sørensen was motivated by an analysis of play activity itself rather than formal concerns. As one critic put it, “if the modernist imperative was to make play environments ‘imaginative,’ it followed that the ‘imagination’ at play should be that of the child, not that of the architect.”43 At Emdrup, the result was a playground less concerned with its own content and more interested in the subjective interiority of those acting upon it. The adventure playground essentially functioned as an enclosure and a loose framework upon which the agency of the occupant was given full expressive power to imagine things into existence and alter the physical reality of the space. By engaging the child through the pleasures of experimentation, making and destruction, the adventure playground transcended the primary paradox of the modern discourse of play: while Western societies took seriously the obligation to provide children with the means of play, “children do not posses play as their right, as it is subjected, just like education, to the social and political designs of others.”44 Sørensen and his followers, such as Lady Allen of Hurtwood who imported adventure play to the UK, provided a rare and short-lived contradiction to the tendency for playgrounds to be “about censoring and restricting types of play deemed undesirable and displacing them from places deemed dangerous or corrupting, such as the street.”4542  Roy Kozlovsky, “Adventure Playgrounds and Postwar Reconstruction”, Designing Modern Childhoods: History, space and the material culture of chil-dren, (Rutgers, 2007), 2. 43  Ibid, 6.44  Ibid, 2.45  Ibid, 1.13 The moral awakening that transpired during and in the wake of World War II alongside the explosion of child population brought on by the postwar baby boom increased the profile of child psychology in the minds of urbanists and architects. The social sciences were rapidly adopting a view of children that placed fresh emphasis on their well-being and mental development. The 1946 publication of The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock legitimized the power of the child in the domestic setting.46 Child psychology burst onto university campuses as a dedicated field of psychology, including the 1947 opening of Anna Freud’s Hampstead facility for child therapy training. In 1948, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, flipping the attitude toward children from one of dictation to empowerment. Some of the most influential architects and artists of the age participated in the design of playgrounds as a result of the emergence of child empowerment.  Though most of his designs went unrealized, the play environments proposed by the sculptor Isamu Noguchi paved the way for future generations of playground designers who embraced landscape over structure. On his interest in playgrounds he wrote, “Brancusi said that when an artist stopped being a child, he would stop being an artist. Children, I think, view the world differently from adults, their awareness of its possibilities are more primary and attuned to their capacities. When the adult would imagine like a child, he must project himself into seeing the world as a totally new experience.”47 Searching for a way to relate sculpture to the earth and create worlds specifically for children to inhabit, Noguchi proposed a playground the size of a city block to New York City park commissioner Robert Moses in the 1930s, which was to take the form of an enormous tiered pyramid housing an underground complex.48 The plan was dismissed with some hostility from Moses, but Noguchi was not discouraged, going on to propose a similar yet more modestly sized playscape for Central Park, which garnered some interest but was derailed by the advent of World War II. Noguchi himself was greatly affected by the war, having spent part of it confined to an internment camp for Japanese Americans. His post-war efforts in New York included an unbuilt playground for the UN Headquarters and five rejected designs for a playground on Riverside Drive, drawn up in collaboration with Louis Kahn between 1958 and 1962.  Kahn had a longstanding interest 46  Liane Lefaivre, “Ground-Up City: The Place of Play,” in Ground-Up City: Play as A Design Tool, Liane Lefaivre and Döll (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2007), 46.47 Ibid, 50.48  Martin Friedman, Noguchi’s Imaginary Landscapes, (Minneapolis: The Walker Art Center, 1978), 39-51.14in playgrounds, calling for the transformation of unnecessary streets into playgrounds in a 1943 article titled “Why City Planning Is Your Responsibility”.49  Leading figures in modernist architecture were among the contributors to post-war playground design. Le Corbusier’s 17-storey apartment Unité d’Habitation was topped with a roof terrace featuring a kindergarten, playground, children’s paddling pool, stage, sports area and gymnasium, successfully creating a multi-generational community centre by integrating children’s and grown-up’s leisure spaces.50 His masterplan project in Chandigarh devoted nearly a fifth of the total area to recreational spaces. A “Valley of Leisure” defined by a stream and lined with footpaths led to an open-air theatre, platforms for dancing, playgrounds and sports fields. However, the playground at Unité d’Habitation being elevated from the street and reserved for building tenants meant it was removed from the surrounding urban fabric, vacating the potential role of the playground as an urban strategy. Chandigarh embodied Jeanneret’s vision of a city of segregated functions, with residents living in apartment complexes similar to the Marseilles Unité, designed with reason and a top-down approach.  This authoritarian and highly regimented model of urban planning was shared with fellow Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne members Victor Bourgeois, Ludwig Hilberseimer and Cornelis van Eesteren, though by different names. For Le Corbusier, it was the Ville Radieuse, which he presented to CIAM at their 1930 conference.51 These city planning models shared a fascination with the apartment tower for its ability to free up the ground to make room for broad freeways and highly fetishized greenspaces; with a tabula rasa context in which there is no need to consider the past or the site’s surrounding tissue; with functional separation and symmetry. The Radiant City even went so far as to impose an anthropomorphic geometry upon the varying city districts, invoking the image of spine, arms, heart and head. Highly centralized and densely populated, the functionalist city had in its sights not only the transformation of urbanity but of its citizens as well. As one scholar wrote, “Underpinning his urban initiatives was a naïve faith in the power of a well-ordered environment to reunite man, nature and the machine in an unalienated harmony.”52  While mechanization had led to the emotional shock of World War I and the urban decay that followed, “it also supplied the means for realizing a new order whose constitution the Utopian artist would be able to form.”53 52  Ibid, 323.53  Ibid.15 While the CIAM approach to urban planning found many incarnations following the adoption of the Athens Charter in 1933, it faced many criticisms for what it actually produced in terms of urban community. Even in Le Corbusier’s ideal vision, it’s hard to imagine that the few spaces afforded for children would have any appeal or character given their monotony and Jeanneret’s over-emphasis on “air and sunlight”.54 While communal daycare centres and interconnected roof-gardens do make an appearance in the plans for the Radiant City, the apartment complexes built in the image of the Unité d’Habitation as case studies in anticipation of a functionalist city frequently omitted its communal facilities and focused instead on the mere creation of density, leading to public distrust of the top-down model altogether.55 Henri Lefebvre was the first to consider the potential of bottom-up thinking after World War II.56 His Critique de la vie quotidienne (1947) argued for the power of “everydayness”, focusing on the humble, the repetitive, the ordinary and forgotten areas of life as places of heightened poetry and meaningful social life. In this sense, he furthered an increasingly popular view that placed distrust in authority and instead held that an untapped intelligence lies in le quotidien. He viewed the city as a place of “festival” and bestowed each citizen with the right to pleasure and enjoyment within, free of the market constraints of production or consumption. In doing so, he was advocating for a city where play was a critical component of the urban and social fabric.  Jane Jacobs, whose writing and advocacy was centred on the role of the built form in making community and quality public space, might be credited with the title of the most vocal urban theoretician opposed to CIAM’s top-down approach after World War II, taking aim at the technocratic, big-government policies behind their visions.57 Her generation was primarily concerned with the city in terms of its impact on people and was alarmed at the lack of working solutions to urban alienation. In her 1961 publication The Death and Life of Great American Cities, she railed against the empty monumentalism of CIAM’s public spaces and criticized them for failing to generate the sense of community that was essential to life in the city. She was anti- tabula rasa and called for a kind of ad hoc urban renovation rather than 54  Ibid, 325.55  Ibid, 449.56  Liane Lefaivre, “Ground-Up City: The Place of Play,” in Ground-Up City: Play as A Design Tool, Liane Lefaivre and Döll (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2007), 55.57  Ibid, 54.16wholesale replacement of neighbourhoods. Additionally, she highlighted the imperative for “a continuity of people who have forged neighborhood networks” and deemed these networks “a city’s irreplaceable social capital”, writing, “Whenever the capital is lost, from whatever cause, the income from it disappears, never to return until and unless new capital is slowly and chancily accumulated.”58  The Amsterdam playgrounds designed by Aldo van Eyck exemplify the type of bottom-up, accretionary, and interstitial approach to urban renovation advocated by Jacobs and others. The postwar urban planning response marshalled by the Netherlands largely reflected an embrace of the pre-war ideals associated CIAM and the plan for rebuilding Amsterdam was no exception.59 Cornelis van Eesteren, president of CIAM, of which Van Eyck was a conflicted member, had been selected before the war to implement a masterplan for the city based on statistical forecasts of population growth and transportation trends. While Amsterdam had a rich tradition of “play-gardens”, these were typically fenced-in, supervised, private facilities and were scattered sparsely across the city even before the war.60 After the war, as the director of the Municipal Department of Public Works, Van Eesteren resolved to install at least one open playground in each neighbourhood, with the supervision of its users entrusted to the general public. The head of the Public Works Design Office, Jakoba Mulder, enlisted Van Eyck in 1947 to design the first prototype for Bertelmanplein, a small public square surrounded by housing.  Employing a modest composition of elementary forms -a sandpit, somersault frames, jumping stones, a steel climbing arch and benches- Van Eyck designed both a toolkit of play objects that suggested forms of play rather than prescribing them, appealing to children’s imaginations, and one that was modular, adaptable to the genius loci of the site.61 At Bertelmanplein, he created a playground that was so favourably received by the neighbourhood’s residents that several others were soon commissioned. Over the course of thirty years, several became several hundred, driven by Van Eesteren’s receptiveness to public feedback, displaying his sympathies for Van Eyck’s CIAM fracture group Team 58  Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), 138.59  Merijn Oudenampsen, “Aldo van Eyck and the City as Playground.” Urbanacción 07/09, (2010), 25.60  Vincent Ligtelijn and Francis Strauven, ed. Aldo van Eyck: Writings, vol. 2. (Amsterdam: Sun Publishers, 2008), 100.61  Jaime Álvarez Santana. “The network of relationships: intimate space,” in Aldo van Eyck: Orphanage Amsterdam: Building and Playgrounds, Christoph Graphe et al., (Amsterdam: Architectura & Natura, 2018), 31.17X.62 “They gradually formed a continuous network of places that injected new light into the urban fabric and which the children could identify as their own territory -places where the children found due recognition as inhabitants of the city.”63 Children visiting relatives on the other side of Amsterdam could immediately recognize a playground on sight, despite it being uniquely configured. The Amsterdam playgrounds were not exclusively children’s spaces, however. Speaking in 1962, Van Eyck emphasized that “the playground is for everyone. At night, any play apparatus set up there becomes something different. When someone beats their rugs onto it, a somersault frame is no longer a somersault frame…The public playground has to be attractive as a meeting place for everyone, including adults, if its existence is to be justified.”64 Liane Lefaivre argues that the Amsterdam playgrounds represent “arguably the most successful urban design tool of the twentieth century” for their “polycentric, interstitial, participatory” approach to community space.65  In contemporary urban theory, the ideas of Van Eyck, Van Eesteren and Mulder find some resonance in the theory of “Everyday Urbanism” advocated by Margaret Crawford. In a 2004 debate with Michael Speaks, Crawford calls for an embrace of what Rem Koolhaas has termed “junkspace”, seeing everyday space instead as “a zone of possibility and potential transformation.”66 She describes Everyday Urbanism as “not an over-arching design philosophy” but instead an “attitude toward the city” and a “partial approach” that can respond to the peculiarities of site rather than seeking total transformation.67 In this way, Everyday Urbanism is more interested in retrofitting and working in “the nooks and crannies of existing urban environments”, working with “an accretional approach where small changes accumulate to 62  Liane Lefaivre, “Ground-Up City: The Place of Play,” in Ground-Up City: Play as A Design Tool, Liane Lefaivre and Döll (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2007), 62.63  Vincent Ligtelijn and Francis Strauven, ed. Aldo van Eyck: Writings, vol. 2. (Amsterdam: Sun Publishers, 2008), 101.64  Aldo van Eyck, Aldo van Eyck: Writings, vol. 2, edited by Vincent Ligtelijn and Francis Strauven (Amsterdam: Sun Publishers, 2008), 113.65  Liane Lefaivre, “Ground-Up City: The Place of Play,” in Ground-Up City: Play as A Design Tool, Liane Lefaivre and Döll (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2007), 71.66  Rahul Mehrotra, ed. Everyday Urbanism: Margaret Crawford vs. Mi-chael Speaks, (New York: Distributed Arts Press, 2005), 18. 67  Ibid, 32.PART III | CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES18transform situations”.68 Perhaps it should not be surprising that this method of urban planning is not exactly embraced by the contemporary establishment. Crawford’s adversary in the debate, Speaks, deflates her bottom-up idealism by arguing that “in reality, Everyday Urbanism is not really even bottom-up because it is mostly, or entirely, bottom.”69 At root cause, he highlights an excessive concern “with meaning and interpretation not with design and planning” and Everyday Urbanism’s disengagement with the market, where successful forms of urbanism succeed because they have “the ability to transform the constraints thrown up by the market into opportunities for active urban intervention.”70 This relationship between capital and community planning poses a challenge for designers that can be difficult to transcend in practise. In her 2014 publication The Science of Play, Susan G. Solomon outlines the corrosive effect of economization and excessive bureaucracy on the field of playground design. “Concerns about costs, including liability, drive many decisions about American playground design,” leading to an epidemic of mass-produced, under-imaginative and unchallenging playgrounds since at least the 1980s.71 Rising societal concerns about children’s safety (ironically fueled by Jane Jacobs’ dim view of urban playgrounds)72, the emergence of national safety guidelines and the concern over injury litigation have left the fate of playground design in the hands of a small number of corporations producing standardized equipment who largely continue to define what a playground is in America -ubiquitous “post and deck” structures in gaudy powder coat colours accompanied by an assortment of traditional, optional extras.73 The American parent’s obsession with preventing even the smallest injury of their children reflects the nation’s individualist cultural values, according to Solomon. While in Europe, where a more collectivist notion of society informs an emphasis on socialization and letting children build confidence through experience (including minor injuries), American individualism works to control vulnerabilities and limit exposure to risk. Susan Herrington, Chair of Landscape Architecture 68  Ibid, 19.69  Ibid, 36.70  Ibid, 34-35.71  Susan G. Solomon, The Science of Play, (Lebanon, NH: University of New England Press, 2014), 11.72  Liane Lefaivre, “Ground-Up City: The Place of Play,” in Ground-Up City: Play as A Design Tool, Liane Lefaivre and Döll (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2007), 52.73  Susan G. Solomon, The Science of Play, (Lebanon, NH: University of New England Press, 2014), 28.19at UBC, is among a chorus of advocates calling for a stark alternative to the American trend in line with the European approach. Herrington has conducted research on playground design for at least two decades, much of it focusing on the positive developmental impact of re-introducing natural materials and elements of risk into playgrounds. Along with Mariana Brussoni and Ellen Sandseter, Herrington urges playground designers to incorporate a range of “risky play” activities that involve speed, heights, use of dangerous tools, exposure to dangerous elements, “rough and tumble play” and a chance of getting lost, as outlined by Sandseter in her Norway-based research.74 75 Professor Herrington’s research has shown that children who regularly use play spaces containing more natural materials, and physical and cognitive challenges experience more positive social relationships, happiness and increased physical activity. Brussoni’s research affirms these findings, outlining “the importance of play as a necessary ingredient for healthy child development” given children’s “natural propensity towards risky play” and the now well-understood fact that teaching children risk assessment is a critical component of safety on and off the playground.76  Research into the human attraction to risk also has implications that could broaden the typical stakeholder set of the playground. Sandseter notes how risk-seeking behaviour, like the impulse towards play in general, runs counter to evolutionary biology.77 Neither directly serve the end-goals of sustaining life and reproducing, yet humans of all ages are drawn to both risk and play. In fact, it may be precisely because contemporary humans have relatively so little to worry about in terms of survival that we go to such lengths to experience danger in a controlled way. This is especially true when Sandseter’s latest research is taken into consideration, identifying “vicarious risk experience” as a form of risky play.78 Vicarious risk is enjoyed by an extremely broad spectrum of people, from children watching their older siblings taking risks, to the gladiatorial arenas of ancient Rome, to the 74  Mariana Brussoni, et al., “Risky Play and Children’s Safety: Balancing Priorities for Optimal Child Development,” International Journal of Environmen-tal Research and Public Health 9, no. 9. (August 2012), 3136.75  Mariana Brussoni, Susan Herrington et al., “Landscapes for Play: Ef-fects of an Intervention to Promote Nature-Based Risky Play in Early Childhood Centres,” Journal of Environmental Psychology 54, (2017), 139-150.76  Mariana Brussoni, et al., “Risky Play and Children’s Safety: Balancing Priorities for Optimal Child Development,” International Journal of Environmen-tal Research and Public Health 9, no. 9. (August 2012), 3134.77  Ellen Beate Sandseter, It Tickles in My Tummy!: Understanding children’s Risk-Taking in Play through Reversal Theory, Vol. 8, (London: SAGE Publications, 2010).78  Rasmus Kleppe, Edward Melhuish, and Ellen Beate Hansen Sandseter, Identifying and Characterizing Risky Play in the Age One-to-Three Years, (2017).20physical response one experiences when absorbed in a video game. Whether the risk is vicarious or directly experienced, risky play is positively correlated to involvement (with one’s surroundings and with each other), with physical activity and with general well-being -all of which are aspirations of contemporary city planners and urban designers.79 Indeed, Susan Herrington’s handbook on playground design 7 Cs: an informational guide to young children’s outdoor play spaces could just as easily be a guide for the design of all public space. While the research was focused on children aged two to five-years old, the study concludes that “many of these elements are relevant to play spaces for older children as well.”80 The “Seven Cs” are seven principles (like Olgiati’s) which are meant to highlight the qualities of outdoor play experiences which most greatly enrich children’s developmental opportunities. They include Character, Context, Connectivity, Change, Chance, Clarity, and Challenge. Each principle builds upon the last. Character is the unique feel or personality of a place, which often has to do with its ecological and cultural surroundings (should not be confused with “theming” which is artificial character). Context has to do with a sense of being part of something bigger beyond the site. Connectivity involves the physical, visual, and cognitive connections that generate interlocking flows of movement and nodes of activity. Change calls for dynamic elements and materials that transform with time and can be manipulated by site users. Chance involves creating a sense of mystery and discovery, prohibiting a full and immediate comprehension of the site in order to foster imagination. Clarity is about balancing the unknown with the legible and creating nodes for observation. Finally, Challenge requires a range of difficult experiences which provoke acts of personal discovery and collaboration, created by exploiting features of the site. These principles echo the concerns of Olgiati and Huizinga for they all function in the service of sense-making and of play as a instrument for knowing. When it comes to designing children’s spaces, Vancouver-based landscape architecture firm space2place has a catalogue that succeeds in responding to the challenge of working with existing regulations, incorporates the research of the risky play movement and in some ways echoes the strategies of Aldo van Eyck and Noguchi.  The office’s professional website outlines the central concerns of their practise: developing site-specific responses which amplify its existing cultural and natural character, collaborating with the public, integrating natural systems/terrain, and designing 79  Ibid.80  Susan Herrington, “The design of landscapes at child-care centres: Seven Cs”, Landscape Research 31(1), (2006), 63-82. 21for the human scale.81 Projects such as the Moody Park Playscape in New Westminster and the Garden City Play Environment in Richmond are designed with sensitivity to the park’s surroundings and site conditions. Loose, natural materials in the form of sand and water offer unlimited creative play opportunities. Massive concrete blobs reminiscent of Noguchi’s play forms provide open-ended physical challenge and a point of curiosity. Van Eyck’s abstract jumping stones also make a frequent appearance in their designs. While both still feature traditional play implements such as swings and slides, their placement takes advantage of natural topography and sightlines, ever sensitive to the peculiarities of the individual site.  81  “Expertise – space2place,” space2place, accessed Dec. 18, 2019, http://www.space2place.ca/expertise22  The Department of Agonistics remains cautious about the outstanding questions surrounding the design of a public space that embraces the play-element of human culture. Should a contemporary playground look anything like playgrounds of the past? What kind of opportunities can be invented to attract a broader set of stakeholders? Can a balance be struck between the formal strategies of Noguchi and Van Eyck and the more anarchistic methods of Sørensen? Can the principles of Olgiati and Herrington be combined to produce a formula for sense-making play environments? What kind of role is appropriate for designers who seek to generate spaces for critical engagement? How can an architect participate in the design of a public venue without further cementing hegemonic power? All these must be answered if the value of play as an urban strategy is to be salvaged and the shared role of play and architecture in sense-making is to be fully appreciated. The Department of Agonistics plans to investigate these areas further.CONCLUSION23SECTION IISITE DOCUMENTATION + ANALYSIS24INTRODUCTION: THE DEPT. OF AGONISTICS The City of Vancouver has made use of 3rd-party funding to initiate a new office within the city’s planning department that will be known as the Department of Agonistics. The mission of this department is to ensure that Vancouver’s public spaces are places of social and political engagement through the lens of the theory of agonism.  Agonism is the notion that conflict may be productive or even necessary for healthy democracies and communities. True equilibrium only exists in a state of disengagement from one another. The false promise of consensus necessitates the exclusion and marginalization of a disenfranchised minority. In an ethical democracy, space must be made for the marginalized to be heard so that challenges to the status quo can be publicly debated and new cross-cultural hybrids can be forged. Resolution is not the desired outcome as it is most often impossible. Instead, interpersonal critical engagement itself has positive effects, both on the individual whose political agency becomes more self-evident and on the whole of the community as a result of a permissive attitude towards cultural and political flux. In her writings, Chantal Mouffe explains how public spaces ought to function as a kind of public sphere without consensus, where critical art can be exhibited and challenged (see Section I).25Fig. 1: Agonism diagram26INTRODUCTION: SITE The public space chosen for the first intervention by the Department of Agonistics is part of the grounds of Vancouver City Hall itself. Located at the intersection of Cambie Street and West 12th Avenue, City Hall occupies a monumental Art Deco office building topped by a neon clock tower.  At the time of construction in the 1930s, the surrounding area was suburban and removed from the downtown core. Now, the City Hall site is part of a rapidly changing neighbourhood. The expansion of the Canada Line saw a Skytrain station added to the nearby intersection at Broadway and Cambie, already a bustling stop along the route of the 99 B-Line. Two major cycle routes intersect at the corner of 10th and Yukon. Developments have already brought major retail outlets to the Cambie/Broadway area and the City plans to develop the block it owns on the other side of 10th when the new Skytrain line expands down Broadway. There is therefore an imperative to provide open public space in this growing neighbourhood. 27Fig. 2: Site context diagram 1Fig. 3: Site context diagram 228  Originally planted in a symmetrical English garden style, the “backyard” of City Hall interfacing with 10th Avenue is now a jumbled mess. A community garden in the middle of the yard creates a series of peripheral spaces with no cohesion, poor accessibility and worse visibility. A steep path dotted with benches connects the base of the grand staircase topped by the statue of George Vancouver with steps at the corner of Cambie and 10th. The Cambie interface is marred by a retaining wall while the 10th Avenue side presents a steep slope overgrown with ivy. The overall impression is not one of a public park but of a private garden hidden behind walls.  29Fig. 4: Site inventory diagramFig. 5: Site circulation diagram30 There is also a “ruin” in the garden which provides further obstacles to access. What was once the East Wing, constructed in 1969 at the corner of 10th and Yukon, was partially demolished in 2016 after a seismic assessment of the old structure spelled its doom. All that remains today is the old parkade podium where the office building once perched, now resurfaced as an outdoor plaza. This space has gone disused under the City’s nose ever since, occasionally playing host to a meager selection of ping-pong tables as it apparently functions primarily as a break room for City staff. Members of the public rarely come to visit the plaza due its lack of appeal and its physical/visual removal from the sidewalk, which is separated by over six metres in elevation on the 10th Avenue side. A dead end, the North end of the plaza becomes unapproachable when occupied by others and one feels cornered when alone. The parkade itself has been shuttered and bricked up, though it appears intact within. Its exterior walls of rough concrete and volcanic dash offer an imposing facade, reading as bunker, fortress, ruin and construction site. 31Fig. 6: Corner of Yukon and 10th, photoFig. 7: 10th Ave facade, photo32Fig. 9: Plaza looking North, photoFig. 10: Plaza looking South, photo33Fig. 11: Yukon facade, photoFig. 12: West parkade wall, photo34Fig. 13: West parkade wall looking North, photoFig. 14: Main path looking uphill, photo35Fig. 15: City Hall from plaza, photo36 All of this of course is in the shadow of what the Department of Agonistics considers to be the symbolic expressions of the dominant colonial hegemony. City Hall’s monumental architecture and its adoption of imperial British figures portrays a political reality of consensus, where there can be no challenge to the legitimacy of colonial occupation. The atmosphere of the site is one of alienation and powerlessness in the face of unquestionable authority. 37Fig. 16: Statue of George Vancouver, photoFig. 17: Architecture of alienation diagram38 To add further provocation, the City has seen to name the desolate plaza after Helena Gutteridge, Vancouver’s first female city councilor, a suffragette and labour rights activist. The suffragette movement was a fight from the margins against the consensus that women should have no political thoughts. As a figure known both for rabble-rousing and for her role in elected office, she seems to represent the City’s intent for the plaza to serve as a convenient location for peaceful demonstrations and political rallies. However, the same issues that make the plaza and its surrounding park space fail generally as a public space also render the site unappealing for those organizing protests. It’s inaccessible and lacks porousity at its edges. You can’t see into it from the street so it has no disruptive potential. It’s devoid of occupants on most sunny afternoons. The plaza is a dead end, so there’s no getting out if things turn violent.  The Department of Agonistics holds activist icons like Helena Gutteridge in high regard and thus cannot let an insult to her legacy such as this go unchallenged. 39Fig. 18: Helena Gutteridge plaque, photo40Fig. 19: Existing site section, North-South41Fig. 20: Existing site section, East-West42Fig. 21: Existing site plan43SECTION IIIDESIGN RESOLUTION44DESIGN PHILOSOPHY + PRECEDENTS The Department of Agonistics has authored a white paper (see Section I) exploring the potential for public spaces to be more critically engaging by embracing the play-element in human culture. The findings of this research initiative are to be applied in our approach to designing an intervention at Helena Gutteridge Plaza and the City Hall grounds. Key to our philosophy is our reading of Johan Huizinga, who wrote on play’s agonistic qualities and saw play as the root of all cultural and political activity. Other architects and designers have incorporated infrastructure of play into their portfolios. Play’s naturally agonistic qualities are especially evident in precedents such as the Emdrup adventure playground where visitors became architects of an ever-changing environment in which ideas came into conflict and confluence.  Aldo Van Eyck recognized the social infrastructural role that playgrounds could play in postwar Amsterdam and designed them to be accommodate a multitude of uses and users.  Palle Neilsen’s installation The Model illuminated how certain contexts permit a reading of play activity as culturally significant, like a social barometer. It also represented a trojan horse approach to design, where what at first appears reasonable takes on an organic and somewhat out-of-control character once occupied.  Bernard Tschumi’s follies in Parc La Villette imprinted a DNA of possible uses on the spaces they inhabit and have a speculative quality that sparks the imagination, simultaneously evoking a playground and a construction site. Cedric Price’s Fun Palace sought to invite spectators to become performers in an ever-evolving interactive theatrical venue where the boundary of the stage is blurry.  Lawrence Halprin’s Ira Keller Fountain transformed the public square into a multiplicity of stages that invite spontaneous expressions of civic joy and disobedience.  And from the traditional play structure we may also borrow from a rich vocabulary of means for ascending and descending playfully in order to solve the accessibility issues present at Helena Gutteridge Plaza. 45Fig. 22: Play structure vocabulary sketches46INTERVENTION PROPOSALThe first modification to the City Hall grounds that the Department of Agonistics deems necessary is a regrading of the existing topography. By taking a longer arcing path from the grand staircase to the Northwest corner, a fully accessible 3% grade can be achieved along its length and a nominally flat pocket of interior space can be carved out adjacent to the plaza. 47Fig. 23: Proposed topography plan48 Seen in plan view from a bird’s eye perspective, the strategy of activating the margins of the site becomes visible, including along the interface between the plaza and the newly created open space on the park side. The concrete railing surrounding the plaza has been removed on this side and facing 10th Avenue so that the plaza surface can be extended five metres by steel decking. A new railing that offers greater opacity is placed along this new edge, in addition to playful and varied means of access. Trees have been cleared from the interior and along 10th Avenue to permit sightlines in and out of the space. The 10th Avenue edge is further animated by the addition of three small covered performance spaces. 49Fig. 24: Proposed bird’s eye plan50 The interior of the parkade is to be left largely untouched in this phase of the intervention. However, access to this covered space is still important. The existing garage doors on 10th Avenue and on Yukon are to be re-opened and new doors into the park are to be cut out of the West wall, allowing foot traffic to flow through. Amenities such as public washrooms and bicycle storage are to be included in the next stage of development.  Fig. 25: Proposed interior diagram51Fig. 26: Proposed site section, North-South52 As seen in the section view, the decking is to be supported by a steel structure that in superimposed on and structurally independent from the parkade/plaza. This scaffolding supports a multiplicity of staircases, slides and climbing surfaces to accommodate access for a variety of attitudes and abilities. Additionally, coloured motion-activated lights are suspended from trusses attached to the steel structure, providing a stage-like atmosphere along key peripheral zones that serves to lower the barrier between spectator and performer, inviting spontaneous acts of expression from visiting members of the public. The new topography of the site allows for the addition of stepped seating.53Fig.27: Proposed site section, North-South, detail54 The entry condition at the corner of Cambie and 10th is to be reconfigured for accessibility. With the curtain of trees and vines removed, visual connection to the activity within the site is established from this intersection. The small performance spaces along 10th Avenue further activate this edge and draw visitors in. 55Fig. 28: Corner of Cambie and 10th, perspective56 The 10th Avenue facade is marked by a construction elevator to maximize accessibility to and from street-level at this most challenging interface. This feature along with the cross-bracing of the steel scaffolding furthers the reading of the old parkade as both ruin and construction site, amplifying its speculative qualities.  Entrances into the building are announced by funnel-like forms inspired by the shape of megaphones and loudspeakers, signifying both expression and listening. This formal language is continued in the shape of the canopies over the 10th Ave performance spaces. The Yukon Street side features one of these entrances alongside a cascade of giant concrete steps, forming a series of informal stages. 57Fig. 29: 10th Ave facade, perspectiveFig. 30: Yukon facade, perspective58 The proposed intervention comes to life when occupied and is designed to provide a flexible infrastructure for the temporal and unpredictable modes of inhabitation that the site might provoke. The structure itself may play host to signage and banners. Protest and counter-protests might occur simultaneously in the varied open spaces provided. Lights may illuminate someone making a political speech or a cellist performing a concerto. Slides can be used by children at play or demonstrators escaping the authorities. 59Fig. 31: Axonometric detail 1Fig. 32: Axonometric detail 260 By activating the margins of the site, people are invited to participate and to further explore the interior spaces. The centres of the larger gathering spaces are left open to maximize agonistic potential and to allow for temporary structures such as stages and tents to inhabit them. In this way, the City Hall grounds are transformed from a cluttered private garden into an open-ended playground, a place of festival, exhibition and expression.  61Fig. 33: Axonometric detail 3Fig. 34: Axonometric detail 462Fig. 35: Axonometric perspective6364FINAL THOUGHTS The Department of Agonistics is optimistic that this project will help inspire a new model for diagnosing the problems with Vancouver’s failed public spaces and provide a toolkit for designing interventions so that these sites can become places of productive conflict. Like urban acupuncture, small shifts in a public space’s orientation, attitude and accessibility can offer benefits to individual citizens in terms of a heightened sense of agency and to the community as a whole through a more engaged populace.  Architects and planners must realize that their role is not just the construction of buildings but the construction of the sense of one community. It is the aspiration of the Department of Agonistics that this message resonate through all branches of City Hall. 65Allegretti, Pietro. Brueghel. Milan: Skira, 2003Brussoni, Mariana, Lise Olsen, Ian Pike and David A. Sleet.  “Risky Play and Children’s Safety: Balancing Priorities  for Optimal Child Development.” International Journal  of Environmental Research and Public Health 9, no. 9.  (August 2012): 3134-48. Brussoni, Mariana, Takuro Ishikawa, Sara Brunelle, and Susan  Herrington. “Landscapes for Play: Effects of an  Intervention to Promote Nature-Based Risky Play in  Early Childhood Centres.” Journal of Environmental  Psychology 54, (2017): 139-150.Curtis, William J. R. Modern Architecture Since 1900. 3rd ed.  New York, NY: Phaidon Press, 1996.Freud, Sigmund. “Creative Writers and Daydreaming.”  Complete Works of Sigmund Freud. Translated by J.  Strachey, 141-153. London: 1965. Friedman, Martin. Noguchi’s Imaginary Landscapes.  Minneapolis: The Walker Art Center, 1978.Frost, Joe. Evolution of American Playgrounds. Scholarpedia,  2012.Groos, Karl. The Play of Animals, 1896. Translated by E.L.  Baldwin. New York, Appleton, 1898.  Groos, Karl. The Play of Man, 1899.Translated by E.L. Baldwin.  New York: Appleton, 1901.Herrington, Susan. “The design of landscapes at child-care  centres: Seven Cs.” Landscape Research 31(1). 2006,  63-82.Huizinga, Johan. Homo Ludens: A study of the play element in  culture. London: Maurice Temple Smith Ltd., 1970.REFERENCES66Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New  York: Vintage Books, 1961. Kahn, Louis and Oskar Stonorov. “Why Urban Planning is Your  Responsibility.” Revere’s Part in Better Living, 17. (1943):  6-7. Kleppe, Rasmus, Edward Melhuish, and Ellen Beate Hansen  Sandseter. Identifying and Characterizing Risky Play in  the Age One-to-Three Years 2017.Kozlovsky, Roy. “Adventure Playgrounds and Postwar  Reconstruction.” Designing Modern Childhoods: History,  space and the material culture of children. Rutgers, 2007.Lefaivre, Liane. “Ground-Up City: The Place of Play.” In Ground- Up City: Play as A Design Tool, Liane Lefaivre and Döll,  36-71. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2007.Ligtelijn, Vincent and Francis Strauven, ed. Aldo van Eyck:  Writings, vol. 2. Amsterdam: Sun Publishers, 2008.Mehrotra, Rahul, ed. Everyday Urbanism: Margaret Crawford vs.  Michael Speaks. New York: Distributed Arts Press,  2005. Mouffe, Chantal. Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically.  Verso, 2013.Olgiati, Valerio and Markus Breitschmid. Non-Referential  Architecture. 2nd ed. Zurich, Switzerland: Park Books,  2019.Oudenampsen, Merijn. “Aldo van Eyck and the City as  Playground.” Urbanacción 07/09. (2010): 25-39.Piaget, Jean. Play, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood. New York:  Norton, 1990. Sandseter, Ellen Beate. It Tickles in My Tummy!: Understanding  children’s Risk-Taking in Play through Reversal Theory. Vol.  8. London, England: SAGE Publications, 2010.67Santana, Jaime Álvarez. “The network of relationships:  intimate space.” In Aldo van Eyck: Orphanage Amsterdam:  Building and Playgrounds, Christoph Graphe, Walter  Herfst, Suzanne Fischer,Jaime Álvarez Santana,  Laurens Otto and Janno Martens, 24-71. Amsterdam:  Architectura & Natura, 2018. Schiller, Friedrich. The Aesthetic Letters. Boston: Little Brown,  1920. Letter 15. Solomon, Susan G. The Science of Play. Lebanon, NH: University  of New England Press, 2014.Space2Place. “space2place.” Accessed Dec. 18, 2019, http:// www.space2place.ca68

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