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Cornelia Hahn Oberlander on Pedagogical Playgrounds is a curated selection of writings by a landscape architect dedicated to children’s right to play in urban environments. This volume assembles key texts from the 1960s and 1970s where Hahn Oberlander urges city planners and developers to recognize playgrounds as important sites for childhood development and to include them in new construction. She emphasizes the social benefits that free play and independent discovery create, and she provides practical proposals for the formulation of new playgrounds.

In pieces including a short history of children’s play, reflections on her own work, and a report urging levels of government to protect children’s right to play, Hahn Oberlander responds to austerity by encouraging the use of inexpensive and recycled materials such as sand, water, logs, boards, and tires for use in playgrounds and suggests vacant lots as play sites. She argues that developers and planners must always consult with their users and that children’s input and needs must be considered in playground design.

An introduction by Jane Mah Hutton, landscape architect and associate professor at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, explores the intersections of active play, ecological thinking, urban development, and the enthusiastic and often-playful advocacy of Oberlander’s writing and practice.

This title is co-published with the Canadian Centre for Architecture and is part of the Building Arguments series.

"Cornelia Hahn Oberlander has such a distinct voice as a writer and it is wonderful to read texts by her that I had not previously encountered. The writing collected here speak to the breadth of Oberlander's references, training, and enthusiasms, as well as how her designs deliberately imparted respect for difference. Jane Mah Hutton animates these writings with a playful introduction that provides a broader context for considerations of race, gender, urban renewal, and modernism." — Cynthia Hammond, Department of Art History, Concordia University

April 2023
Published by Concordia University Press and the Canadian Centre for Architecture
$24.95 CAD / $21.95 USD
Series: Building Arguments 
120 pages | 15 illus., some in colour | 4 1/2 x 7
9781988111377 | Print
9781988111384 | eBook

“Whether with hammers and nails, rocking dories, luscious plants, or sand birthday cakes, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander’s message about the design of play spaces is loud and clear: make them complex, make them movable, give children agency, and recognize different learning styles, body sizes, and physical abilities. Acknowledging and designing for differences imparts respect for difference; it contests the notion of a “normal” child as well as the design norms that reinforce such a false and problematic idea in the first place.”
--from Jane Mah Hutton's introduction

The e-book version of this title is available via Manifold.

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander (1921–2021) was a landscape architect and educator known for her designs for sites across North America, including the Children’s Creative Centre at Expo 67, Robson Square in Vancouver (1978), the National Gallery of Canada (1988), the Northwest Territories Legislative Building (1995), the atrium of the New York Times Building (2002), as well as seventy playgrounds. She was a Companion of the Order of Canada. 

Jane Mah Hutton is a landscape architect and an associate professor of architecture at the University of Waterloo. 

Concordia University Press
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