Seasonality in California Playgrounds

Using Hot Colors, Playing Off the Summer at Parkside Aquatic Park

Using Hot Colors, Playing Off the Summer at Parkside Aquatic Park

Playgrounds in California are different than in many other places.  The seasons are less extreme here so visitors can use playscape facilities throughout the year—almost every day save the really rainy ones.  For this reason, landscape architects and other playground designers may have a hard time incorporating seasonal designs into playscape structures, i.e. ones that specifically highlight the pinnacle of a changing season.  An example of this would be using flowing, circular forms and colors like dark browns for support poles and bright yellows, oranges, and reds for decks and features to play off the fall season.  Or, hard angles and colored features like white slides and climbers connected to dark blue decks to give a sense of winter.  In California however, the only really tangible season, besides way up in the Sierra Nevada range, is summer… well and the rain.

Shade Structure at Vinage Green Valley Park

Shade Structure at Vinage Green Valley Park

To incorporate the summer into design is perhaps the easiest in playgrounds because playgrounds themselves naturally radiate the hot season through vibrantly colored features and also the fun that can be had on them.  But, because the heat is always looming, shade structures should be utilized to provide safety from the scorching sun.  Shade structures not only diminish harmful rays, some are also partially transparent so the brighter the day, the richer the color of the structure is.  Another important factor in designing for the summer is the integration of site amenities such as tree guards, bike racks, benches, and picnic tables.

Offering a Place to Rest at Mickey Grove Park

Offering a Place to Rest at Mickey Grove Park

Tree guards will protect valuable immature trees from wind damage on those more blustery days.  Having trees around also adds to the available shade and advances the sense of summer through the presence of organic life.  Bike racks encourage visitors to leave the car at home, but also, they are practical because during the summer many more people ride bikes anyways.  Benches and picnic tables are extremely beneficial to a playground or parks design because they provide a place for people to gather easily and they also have the function of offering a resting spot for children who have been running around on the playground all day.  Summer in California is long and hot and designing for this kind of season is important for playground designers and landscape architects.


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