Noguchi -- Contoured Playground, 1941

Isamu Noguchi demonstrating proposed playground equipment intended for a park in Hawaii, but unrealized.


The cast plaster model tilted up against the wall represents his 1941 proposal for a contoured playground proposed for a portion of Central Park in New York City. This design was created in reaction to earlier comments that his playground equipment designs would be dangerous to children. His 1933 design for Play Mountain was similarly dismissed by officials in New York.



1941, unrealized


"I felt obliged to answer all the dire warnings of the danger to which I would expose small children with my play equipment and so designed a Contoured Playground. This would be proof against any serious accidents, being made of entirely earth modulations. Exercise was to be derived automatically in running up and down the curved surfaces. There were various areas of interest, for hiding, for sliding, for games. Water would flow in the summer."

-- Isamu Noguchi


In dealing with the landscape, Noguchi was completely comfortable working in an abstract, surreal, ahistorical language at this point in time (1941). Following his seven months in Poston, Arizona (Japanese American Relocation Center from May to November 1942), he began to more vigorously pursue this sort of formal language in a wider range of works.



Archival image.

  • livinginacity 9y

    These models were critical to my thesis.
  • Remiss63 9y

    living . . . really ? i'd love to read it ! i'm becoming more and more fascinated by these sculptural models. they are clearly linked to Noguchi's design the the ceiling in the American Stove Company / Magic Chef Building by Harris Armstrong:

  • Julian Weyer 8y

    These contour studies are wildly inspirational - great to see them gathered into a set.
    I am not aware of any comprehensive book or publication of these reliefs - do you know if some such thing exsists?
  • Remiss63 8y

    weyerdk . . . i don't believe there's something specifically addressing these reliefs in particular as a focus (although they are certainly mentioned in relation to many of his later landscape, playground, pubic plaza, and other project). i'm working on collecting as many of the images together as i can.

    one of my contacts (see comment above) has mentioned they had studied these reliefs as part of their gradate school thesis some years ago. they're going to dig up a copy of their work so i can see what they came up with.

    Noguchi's work has been getting a lot more attention lately. i just found two videos (Stones & Paper and The Sculpture of Spaces) that were made toward the end of his life that show some of these models in relation to the later built works.
  • Julian Weyer 8y

    OK -thanks for the info! All the better to gather as much as possible on his work here.
    If the thesis proves interesting, I'd like to see a link to it - if the author agrees?
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