The Child in the City of Play

Tottenville High School Marching Band leading the audience out of the Child in the City of Play symposium through MoMA Studio: Common Senses. Photo by Sarah Kennedy

It’s not often that you leave a symposium feeling more awake than when you started, but that was certainly the case for every attendee and participant of last week’s The Child in the City of Play: Growing by Design, a half-day public program that ended with a performance by Staten Island’s Tottenville High School Marching Band.

This symposium, which explored the impact of play in childhood development, especially in urban environments, provided an important and active forum for themes that are central to the exhibition Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000</a>, which remains on view until November 5. From the humble playgrounds of Progressive Era Chicago to the thoughtfully and sustainably planned Geopark of Stavanger, Norway, the exhibition features designers’ consistent and diverse efforts to carve out space for children, and concludes with Pat Kane’s axiom, “Play will be to the 21st century what work was to the industrial age—our dominant way of knowing, doing, and creating value.”</p>

Just like children on a mostly typical day at school, symposium participants had their chance at recess. Over 100 adults accessed their playful spirit during a program break in MoMA Studio: Common Senses, an interactive space at the intersection of art, design, and education. Installations by artists Fritz Haeg and J. Morgan Puett of Mildred’s Lane and the Mildred Complex(ity); designer Karen Hewitt; and educators Reggio Children allowed participants to imagine and explore urban and natural spaces for play. From building landscapes with blocks and reflective materials to learning about the teachings of an experimental school and about the space between our natural and domestic worlds, audience members were reinvigorated for the second half of the symposium.

The program was a collaboration between MoMA and Architectural Playground Equipment, Inc., founded by Jane Clark Chermayeff, who, in 1990, co-chaired Growing by Design, the International Design Conference in Aspen from which both our exhibition and symposium take their subtitles.

The fantastic speakers gathered for this event included Jane Clark Chermayeff; Amy L. Freitag of the New York Restoration Project; Adriaan Geuze of West 8 urban design & landscape architecture b.v.; Darell Hammond of KaBOOM!; Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek of Temple University’s Department of Psychology; Juliet Kinchin of MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design; Neil Stevenson of IDEO; and Doug Suisman of Suisman Urban Design. We are thrilled to share their presentations in the videos below; you can even relive the flag-twirling exuberance of our send-off! What a way to end a week at MoMA.