KOMPAN Playgrounds

Best Playground in Seattle

A recent playground addition to the Seattle Center in Washington State combines music, climbing play structures with large slides, sky bridge,  swings, and art. Below you will find a post describing the inspirational process that ended up in a hugely popular playground. Enjoy!

KOMPAN Play Institute

DSC_7160A friend of the Seattle Center made a drawing of how a cool playground would lookDSC_7492SignDSC_7593 - Version 2By Judith Caldwell, Caldwell Sculpture Studio


For more information on this project, visit www.seattlecenter.com

& SiteWorkshop www.siteworkshop.net and www.kompan.com


From the very beginning of our proposal process conceptualizing a new playground at the Seattle Center, we drew inspiration and guidance from one child’s vision of the ideal playground. The Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan, written in 2008, included a drawing, made by a young friend of a Seattle Center staff member, of an above-ground play structure complete with elevated passages and a “swirly slide.” The design team, composed of landscape architecture firm Site Workshop, sound artist Trimpin, playground equipment specialist Peter Tammetta, and myself, decided that as part of the new playground we would try and fulfill a version of this child’s illustration.

After being awarded the commission for the design of the playground, the design team met with groups of children in schools, in community centers, and at public outreach events held at the Seattle Center in the year leading up to the realization of the play area. Children were asked what features they would like to see in a downtown Seattle playground, and the design team drew further guidance from their answers.

Sound artist Trimpin interacted energetically with children to design a series of playable musical instruments for the play area, each one creating the pure tones that would join together chimes, bongs, and bell-like structures in a kid-generated symphony.

For one of my own projects, I needed to reach out to children and gather their short written pieces on sound, which I planned to feature as part of a text and bronze image artwork in the ground plane of the playground. To this end, I met with 6, 7 and 8 year olds at a day camp offered through Pacific Science Center. It was called “Rhythms of Nature,” and was held at the Mercer Slough Environment Education Center in Bellevue, Washington. Many of the sentences that comprised the final “Story Lines” were generated from these meetings. We also created a colorful form that young visitors to Seattle Center could use to independently write out their thoughts on sound. The forms were handed out at Center events, and also made available in a “Little Artists at Play” gallery space created within Seattle Center Armory, where details of the future playground were shared with the public. The result of these efforts was a collection of text pieces about sound, written by children and printed on white lines running across the asphalt surface of the playground. Each “Story Line” is illustrated by a pictorial bronze casting set into the sentence.


The 35 “Story Lines” extend the sound concept across the two-acre site and cover a wide range of subjects, from pets, music, birdsong, and the general clatter of everyday life. One child, the holistic thinker of the group, summed up the idea: The bird chirps, the wind rustles, the water splashes. All in all sound equals one thing: vibration. – Kai, age 8

Judith Caldwell

Caldwell Sculpture Studio



Helle Burlingame

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