Imagination Playground

Imagination Playground at Burling Slip

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Located in the historic South Street Seaport district, Imagination Playground incorporates nautical themes in its design that highlight the neighborhood’s rich maritime history. Prior to its transformation into a park, Burling Slip was a parking lot built atop a filled inlet that was used as a dock from the colonial period through the middle of the 19th century.

The playground is part of a large-scale redevelopment effort headed by the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). Other projects in the area include new construction on Pier 17, docked historic sailing ships, and a seasonal food vendor space.

Imagination Playground at Burling Slip, designed pro-bono by famed architect David Rockwell, is an interactive, transformable space that encourages children to manipulate their environment and create a play space of their own with sand, water and loose parts. This is the first permanent Imagination Playground, and others have since opened in locations around the world. The eponymous organization works with public entities through public-private partnerships to construct these creative play spaces.

The playground features giant foam blocks, mats, wagons, fabric, and crates, giving children the potential to build and explore. These diverse materials encourage unstructured, child-directed “free play,” where children determine their own activities. Whereas traditional playgrounds with fixed equipment promote the development of gross motor skills, Imagination Playground emphasizes social development by providing a platform for fantasy and cooperative play while still allowing for running, jumping, climbing, and other standard playground activities.

The figure-eight shaped wooden boardwalk looping around the site is meant to evoke the experience of being within the hull of a ship, connecting the park to the neighborhood’s history. At the west end of the park, a clustering of mast-like structures with interactive pulley features rise from the sand. The east side of the park is home to a water feature and PVC tubing, which allows children to divert the water in different directions. Meanwhile, adults

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


  • Imagination Playground At Burling Slip

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