Isamu Noguchi, Moerenuma Park (1988-2000), Sapporo, Japan. (courtesy The Noguchi Museum
Archive) (©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, NY / Artists Rights Society)

Not all playgrounds are built with equal care in mind, and children know this on a core level. I could probably sketch you a rough layout of each and every playground I visited more than once, because the memories I made at them were either thrilling (like the swing sets that let me launch 10 feet or more into the air) or demoralizing (like that time I split my lip on the hanging bars). The Japanese-American artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi fundamentally understood the relationship between child’s play, memory, and spaces in which the two could grow together. His last work was Moerenuma Park, a 400-acre public space in Sapporo, Japan, where children and adults alike could play. Of his “Play Mountain” (1933) concept — a vision once rejected by New York’s Robert Moses — he wrote: “[It] was my response based upon memory of my own unhappy childhood — the desolate playground on a cliff in Tokyo which I approached with dread. It may be that this is how I tried to join the city, New York.”

The artist may have died in 1988, but his legacy lives on in Queens’ Noguchi Museum in Long Island City and in the work and models he left behind. To honor his legacy as well as provide a service to families in the Queens community, Noguchi Museum educators are hosting a Saturday afternoon workshop explaining “how a playground can be a sculpture” before inviting the children and adults to design their own. The workshop is free to attend and will be held at the STICKS space in Astoria’s Socrates Sculpture Park.

When: Saturday, September 14, 2019 12–3 pm
Where: Socrates Sculpture Park, Astoria, Queens (Vernon Boulevard between Broadway and 30 Drive)

Eric Vilas-Boas is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic. He has previously worked at Thrillist, Esquire, SPIN,, and his writing has appeared at Vulture, Slashfilm, Lit Hub, Paste,...