Imagination Playground

The Daily Plant : Monday, May 11, 2009

Parks And Rockwell Group Break Ground On Imagination Playground

On May 7, First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris joined Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Architect David Rockwell of Rockwell Group, Developer Kent Swig, and local school children to break ground on Imagination Playground at Burling Slip in the South Street Seaport area.

Imagination Playground is the product of over five years of David Rockwell’s extensive research on play and playgrounds. It is a progressive concept in children’s play that offers a rich environment of diverse materials that encourage unstructured, child-directed “free play,” where children determine their own activities, alone and with their peers.

“Imagination Playground at Burling Slip meets two of Mayor Bloomberg’s major goals: innovative design and creative public-private partnerships to improve parks,” said First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris. “From skate parks to adventure courses, we are pushing the envelope on creative recreation throughout the five boroughs. Thanks to our successful partnership with the Rockwell Group and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation we are creating a new template for children’s play in New York City.”

“Imagination Playground is an entirely new concept in playground design, allowing children to exercise their minds, as well as their bodies,” said Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. “The Burling Slip site at the South Street Seaport is an ideal location, given its status as an iconic family destination and as a rapidly growing 24-hour community. I would like to thank the Rockwell Group, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and everyone involved in making today’s groundbreaking possible.”

A complement to traditional playgrounds with fixed equipment for physically active play, Imagination Playground provides a flexible armature for many types of play, rather than prescribed activities. Imagination Playground has three key components: an open multi-level space with large sand and water features; a huge array of “loose parts,” essentially a variety of toys and tools; and Play Associates, trained staff on site who maintain and manage the site. These elements will enable children to play in an intuitive way: build something, tear it down, and start all over again. In addition to gifting the playground design to New York City, Rockwell Group has raised an endowment fund to ensure that Imagination Playground is properly maintained for decades to come.

“The groundbreaking of Imagination Playground is a dream come true for me both as a father and a designer,” said David Rockwell, founder and CEO of Rockwell Group. “Being keenly aware of the value of shared spaces and knowing firsthand about the types of play that engage children, Imagination Playground is proving to be a child-centered destination that fosters the type of creative, collaborative play that parents wish for.”

The project is made possible by a $4.5 million grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), which is funded through Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Department of Environmental Protection has also provided $3 million for the relocation of two water mains and a sewer line into the adjacent street.

The N.Y.C. Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has played an instrumental role in coordinating this project, including giving up its parking lot as the site for the playground.

Additionally, a portable version of the playground called Imagination Playground in a BOX, a product of a partnership between Rockwell Group and KaBOOM!, the nation’s leading not-for-profit dedicated to bringing play back into the lives of children, is being piloted at schools and centers around the United States in Washington DC, New Orleans, Miami and New York. The first installation of Imagination Playground in a BOX was launched at the Brownsville Recreation Center playground in Brooklyn, NY in July 2008 and New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation is rolling out 10 more of them across the City, including the outer boroughs.


“A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it.”

Alfred Hitchcock
(1899 – 1980)

Park Information

  • Imagination Playground, July 27, 2010
  • Imagination Playground, July 27, 2010
  • Imagination Playground, July 27, 2010
  • Imagination Playground, July 27, 2010
  • Imagination Playground, July 27, 2010

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