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Designing spaces for the child in France by the early 1970s according to CRÉE magazine

Loïc Boyer

Résumé

The playgrounds are so interesting in the way that they are a big (even sometimes a huge) area dedicated to kids only. An area where a whole bunch of these young creatures gather and interact altogether in such a way that may never happen again in their adult lives. Built from the barricades of the May 1968 events, CREE (Créations et Recherches Esthétiques Européennes) magazine would take a cross-cutting look at the contemporary society from a design point of view. Luckily enough, the child would not be forgotten. What makes this magazine special and so typical of the times in the same way, is the constant attention devoted to solutions offered by artists or designers, considering the child. And the solution often went through playgrounds.
Seeing the evolution of the child’s landscape through CREE’s eyes is interesting for several reasons related to the era we’re interested in. A bit like most of the things created after 1968 the ambition for this magazine was of a traversal vision. And sometimes with a wide array of perspectives from purely technical to theoretical or political. Because the world according to CREE is filled with various problems that designers can solve, whether it is by their technical skill or by the awareness of the role they play in the contemporary society. The place of the child is one of these problems. Therefore, the magazine’s seven years lifetime shows an idealistic/optimistic vision of a society they believe their generation is about to change, or at least to improve. These 45 issues are our very own playground for this conference, a playground where, publishers and the community of young artists who experienced the tremors of May 1968, whose works they relate, include the child in a more global project of social utopia, by constructing - in the true sense - a place for him or her.

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The playground

  • 1 Gabriela Burkhalter, The Playground Project, Zürich, JRP/Ringier, 2016, p. 22

1In the years following World War II the idea of free play arose and a new generation of playgrounds, promoted by Holland, Denmark and Sweden made their way in Europe1. Called “Adventure Playgrounds” the idea was to encourage play with natural substances such as sand, water, pieces of wood and other non-preset parts. This kind of place was also quick and easy to set up in post-WWII’s European cities where bomb sites were pretty common.

  • 2 Xavier de la Salle, Espaces de jeux - Espaces de vie, Paris, Dunod, 1982, p. 33

2In France nothing groundbreaking happened until the ’60s. French children had to wait until the post-war efforts to rebuild an operative country had begun to bear fruit and the economy was booming again, for circumstances to allow the institutions to care about their playgrounds. Cities or schools mostly favoured two kinds of outdoor equipment: certified sports facilities or illustrative structures (fake castles, fake boats, old cars, etc.) leaving little room for free play.2

What is CREE?

3But “the times, they are a-changin’” as Bob Dylan sang in 1964 and by the end of 1969 CREE (Créations et Recherches Esthétiques Européennes) magazine would take a cross-cutting look at contemporary society from a design point of view. And this vision included the child.

Ill. 1: CREE issues n°2,3 & 6

  • 3 Laurent Martin, “La ‘nouvelle presse’ en France dans les années 1970 ou la réussite par l’échec”, V (...)
  • 4 This was the rather vague term used at the time, reflecting the unthinkable nature of the disciplin (...)

4In line with the spirit of May, the “new press” movement that was born in ’68 sought to encourage speaking out. Since the founders of CREE understood that “speaking out also means talking about what the other media don't talk about”3, they wanted to do this for what they called the contemporary environment4.

Ill. 2: Henri Bonnemazou, Le Reptile indéfinissable torture la ruine ridicule, CREE n°20, p.27, 1973.

5CREE demonstrated a similar formal inventiveness in terms of layout and design to the revolutionary periodical press of the time, featuring for example pages that were totally hand-drawn and lettered. In terms of subject matter, the magazine’s coverage and scope was far broader than its predecessors (Bureau d'aujourd'hui) or successors (BàT, Architecture Intérieure CRÉE) ever proposed.

6As for its circulation, the magazine was sold by subscription to professionals, with a print run of 14,000 copies in 1971. While it is now difficult to get hold of, at the time it was a major publication in its field.

  • 5 CREE n°2, Paris, Déc./Jan. 1970

7Seeing the evolution of the child’s landscape through the eyes of CREE is interesting for several reasons related to the era we’re interested in. Like many of the publications and designs created after 1968 (or even most avant-garde design movements such as Bauhaus) the magazine’s ambition was to have a traversal vision: the editors might publish stories about interior design, or a creative agency, or an innovative bed design, or Swiss industrial design, or a new mechanical digger, or a series of pieces of urban furniture for children, or a swimming-pool, or the project for a whole ski resort to be built, or a motorway restaurant, or a 1930’s-influenced young illustrator. All these subjects and more were featured in the second issue5. And these articles were written from a wide array of perspectives - from the purely technical to the theoretical or the political. The world according to CREE was filled with various problems that designers could solve, either using their technical skills or through their awareness of the role they play in the contemporary society. The place of the child in that society was one of these problems.

8The editors’ call for this type of approach was in some ways answered by the opening of the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1977. Most of the CREE’s interests were fulfilled by this institution, and most of their design wishes were answered by this building.

9Therefore, over the course of the magazine’s seven-year lifetime it put forward an idealistic and optimistic vision of a society the editors believed their generation was about to change, or at least to improve. These 45 issues are our very own playground for this article.

CREE & the Child

10What made this magazine special, and yet at the same time so typical of the period, was the constant attention it devoted to solutions offered by artists or designers, as far as the child’s place in society and viewpoint were concerned.

Ill 3: Guy Boucher, seesaw, c.1970.

  • 6 CREE n°6, Paris, Nov./Déc. 1970, pp. 48-61
  • 7 CREE n°3, Paris, Fev./Mars 1970
  • 8 Gilles de Bure, “Le Blockhaus définitif”, CREE n°7, Paris, Jan./Fev. 1971 p.77
  • 9 Dominique Dupré, “L’Enfant roi”, Ibid.

11Readers could read multiple stories about objects or areas aimed at the child in a progressive way. There was also an issue in 1970 specifically dedicated to the youth question6, but this focus was only signaled by the picture of a child on the cover, with no headline - as if it were already clear to the post-modern designer that the question of the child was automatically taken into consideration in their practice. Actually the editors had already used a picture of a child on a cover a few months earlier7 even if there was no particular connected feature inside, but the interesting point is the continuity of their interest in this subject throughout the years. For example, in 1971, in his review of an exhibition devoted to the work of the architect Claude Parent, Gilles de Bure, one of the most prolific of the contributors, quoted a line from a kid in the guestbook: “Are there any projects for playgrounds?”8 and the journalist added: “Is Claude Parent, as a designer for children, always faster, always more receptive than adults?”. CREE asked similar questions in another review from the same issue: could the young design their own equipment? could disabled children be at the avant-garde of design?9

12Questions, theories, and calls to action aimed at the officials in charge of playgrounds – not only did CREE feature the latest innovations in the field we’re interested in here, but it also relayed and developed new ideas about childhood.

  • 10 Nicole Ragot, “L’enfant, fléau social”, CREE n°6, ibid., p.48

13The afore-mentioned special issue came out as early as November 1970, just one year after the beginning of this editorial venture. In this sixth issue the thematic feature is called L’enfant, fléau social [The child: scourge of society] and it opens with an enlightening manifesto that says the modern child is being separated from the adult sphere (especially their removal from the world of work) but the world is still designed for grown-ups — and we’re not (only) talking about size issues, but also about relationships, the use of space, the use of time10.

14The author argues for the state to play a greater role in child rearing so that most women can be free from this burden. Add these topics to the editors’ recurrent obsession with the re-organization of cities and you soon get to the playground as a central item when writing about children.

Ill. 4: Le Pays des Jeunes, photographie de Koen Wessing, c. 1970 (droits réservés).

15Pays de jeunes [Land of the young], one of the feature articles of this special issue, visits a place in the suburbs of Amsterdam, where the local youth were given large amounts of junk wood and left to it. The youngsters built their own houses and boats by the river, bringing animals if they wanted, helped in their task by two older people and protected by Drakan, a big black dog.

  • 11 L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui - L’Architecture et l’Enfance, n°25, Paris, Août 1949
    L’Architecture d’ (...)

16An interesting point about this particular issue is the absence of school projects. School architecture was usually the focus of studies of designs for children’s spaces, for example in the main architecture magazine, L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui11 whose special issues on children were almost completely dedicated to schools. Progressive, innovative in their design but still… schools. Stories on newly built schools can easily be found here and there in other issues of CREE.

17Deliberately omitting schools here was a way for the editors to mark a real difference, to draw a line between two kinds of times and activities for kids: school on one side and leisure (let’s call it this, even if play is more than just play) on the other side. They underline the value of time spent outside of school and the home by giving it so much room in the magazine. It is like saying: another dimension exists for the child to live in, let’s design it for the best!

18But as I said before, the interest of this corpus is the continuity in which spaces for kids are reviewed. So we will now look at what exactly these reports had to say on which topics, and which trends can be observed over the course of the seven years of the project.

19By reading the 45 issues of CREE we can classify playgrounds in three categories: playgrounds in the city, playgrounds in the art world, and playgrounds in the shops.

Playgrounds in the City

20The first category, “Playgrounds in the city”, was the most important. Six out of the 45 issues contain features about urban playgrounds, most of them in France. They appear over a short period of time – between 1970 and 1972 in issues two, three, six, eight, fourteen and twenty – in other words, they are all in the very early issues.

Ill. 5: Illustration for Werner Stutz’ “Les Espaces de jeux pour enfants”, CREE n°14, Paris, Mars/Avril 1972, pp.50-53

  • 12 Werner Stutz, “Les Espaces de jeux pour enfants”, CREE n°14, Paris, Mars/Avril 1972, pp.50-53

21On the theoretical side, CREE’s editors published in spring 1972 a text12 translated from the German dedicated to the planning of playgrounds for the Munich Olympic Games. The architects of the Olympic Village wanted to use the free space between their buildings, and the major stipulation was that the playground areas had to be open. No pens cut off from real life. The desire to ensure there was no pre-determined game system was also important: there should be no cars or boats or houses to lead children’s play in one direction, instead the structures should let their imaginations run free and facilitate its users’ learning processes.

Ill. 6: Jean-Michel Folon, Folom, Artur, 1969.

22Similar to street furniture design, the idea was often to bring art to the community living where these landscapes are created. Most of the people in charge of these creations had an artistic background, such as sculptors or illustrators, as in the cases of Jean-Michel Folon or Jacques Carelman. The company who produced the designs of the latter was called “Artur” short for “ART URbain” which sums up the idea of the French playground by that time. The list of this company’s projects consists mostly of towns located in the suburbs of Paris: Brétigny, Gif-sur-Yvette, Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, Rungis, or further newly built urban areas in Thionville or Valence.

Ill. 7: Ariane Vuarnesson, Tripodes for Sculptures-jeux, c.1969

  • 13 Alain Bertrand, Sculptures-jeux, CREE n°2, ibid., blind folio

23Another story called Sculptures jeux [Sculpture games]13, was dedicated to the work of a company of the same name founded by Arianne Vuarnesson, and showed her glass-reinforced polyester objects next to a swimming-pool in Val d’Yerres. Its climbing trees and tripod-based structures are shown in front of a typical French brutalist [hard French] building. Arianne Vuarnesson herself came from a family of sculptors.

Ill. 8: Michèle Goalard & Albert Marchais, La Grande Motte, 1969.

  • 14 Claude O’Sughrue, “Fantaisie en briques”, CREE n°3, Paris, Feb./March 1970, blind folio

24Another interview featured is the sculptors Michèle Goalard and Albert Marchais and their work in the Grand Motte project, a new town built from scratch by the Mediterranean Sea. They built a whole environment made of bricks, water and sand, like a huge sculpture for the children to live in14.

Ill. 9: L’Œuf Centre d’études, poured concrete modules, Goussainville, c. 1969.

  • 15 Alain Bertrand, “La Discipline collégiale”, CREE n°4, Paris, Apr./May 1970, pp. 32-41

25In the same vein, when L’Œuf Centre d’Études were asked to create a playground it happened to be in a newly built area of Goussainville, a satellite town close to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. When working for adults, this design group was usually involved in more glamorous projects such as embassies or high-class buildings in Paris15.

26To sum up what was happening then in the French streets, we could say that urban playgrounds, created by artists along new rules, needed new territories to flourish. They were not to be found in the center of Paris or any other major French cities but on the margins of recent urbanization.

Playgrounds in the Art World

27The second kind of playgrounds is found in the art world. We can pick out relevant stories in five different issues, from 1970 to 1973. But if we check the monthly Exhibition Board of the magazine we can find more and go up until 1975, or even 1977 if we take into account the Centre Pompidou’s early programming.

Ill. 10: Play Orbit exhibition, Royal Welsh Eisteddfod, Flint, summer 1969.

  • 16 Corin Hughes-Stanton, Play Orbit, ibid., pp. 50-53

28The first exhibition to be reviewed, the point of departure so to speak, was Play Orbit16 in 1970 in London, at the Institute for Contemporary Arts. Originally called 100 Toys, the exhibition showed a wide range of games and toys created by artists or Art School collectives: from jigsaw or construction games to large structures where one or more children could experiment with fun. “Play Orbit is now part of the English language”, wrote Corin Hugues-Stanton in her opening for the CREE review, ending with “Play Orbit was not just an exhibition, it was also an event.”

  • 17 Gabriela Burkhalter, ibid., pp. 146-153

29It was not the first exhibition setting up the idea of play in the museum, or in the gallery. For instance, Danish artist Palle Nielsen’s “legendary exhibition” Modellen – en modell för ett kvalitativt samhälle (Models – a Model for a Qualitative Society), a spectacular and delirious guerrilla playground was erected in the autumn of 1968 in Moderna Museet in Stockholm17. The director of the Modern Museet at the time was Pontus Hultén, who would become the first director of the museum of modern art at the Centre Pompidou (1974-1981).

  • 18 Ben Cranfield, “All Play and No Work? A ‘Ludistory’ of the Curatorial as Transitional Object at the (...)

30Play Orbit was not the first exhibition of its kind, but its location at the ICA in London probably helped to attract worldwide attention. Popular success was huge and the show ‘garnered interest from international museums, prefiguring the transnational phenomena of the blockbuster exhibition’18.

Ill. 11: Eventstructure Research, Dragon, 1969.

  • 19 Unsigned, “L’inattendu dans la rue”, CREE n°20, Paris, March/Apr. 1973, p. 89

31Another playground as an art event that was reviewed as such was Eventstructure Research’s inflatable PVC dragon for the Nieuwarkt festival in Holland19. Founded in 1968 in Amsterdam by three artists, this collective would create various inflatable objects, abstract or not, presented as playful urban interventions where the public interacts with them sometimes by carrying them in processions, or by climbing the always-moving shapes or even sometimes by entering the pieces.

Ill. 12: Bernard Lagneau, Lieu mécanisé n°13, CCI (Musée des Arts Décoratifs), Paris,1975.

  • 20 Calendrier des expositions, CREE n°35, Paris, June/July 1975, p. 28

32The CCI (Centre de Création Industrielle, Paris) showed the amazing work of Bernard Lagneau in summer 197520. His Lieu mécanisé 12 filled the exhibition space with mechanisms, pulleys, and sprockets entirely made of cardboard. The machine was reclaimed as playful, instead of useful.

Ill. 13: Groupe Ludic, Jouer aux Halles, Paris, 15/07/1970 - 10/09/1970.

  • 21 Dominique Dupré, “Structures jeux”, CREE n°6, ibid., pp. 50-51
  • 22 Simon de la Salle, ibid., p. 34

33The main show of this type, according to CREE and that received the most press coverage was also the most ambitious in its scale and its rules, and the most successful, was Jouer aux Halles [Playing at Les Halles Market] by Group Ludic in 197021. Formed in 1968 by three young artists, the works of this collective had been part of the French landscape for a couple of years when Martin Barré and François Mathey, heads of the CCI (again!), gave them free rein. Les Halles, the former wholesale market in the center of Paris, had already been closed by 1970 but the structures were still there for some time, waiting to be demolished the following year. Xavier de la Salle, Simon Koszel and David Roditi were given one the pavilions, a ten thousand square feet area with no walls and a roof made of glass and iron. What they set up there was not so different from their earlier works, and the formal vocabulary was more or less the same. They had a very innovative approach to outdoor games as they were influenced by psychologist Jean Piaget (and they would be part of the attentive public at Etienne Delessert’s lecture at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs about the famous picturebook Comment la Souris reçoit une pierre sur la tête et découvre le monde in 1974)22. But most of all they experimented with their designs using children on the banks of the Seine where David Roditi lived on a barge. This outdoor studio allowed them to design strong shapes that would become emblematic of French playgrounds from this period.

Ill. 14: Groupe Ludic, Jouer aux Halles, Paris, 15/07/1970 - 10/09/1970.

  • 23 Simon de la Salle, Group Ludic, The Playground Project, ibid., pp. 194-214

34What made this project particularly distinctive was the context. François Mathey became interested in the first place not just because of the design but also “the social issues raised by the intention to install them in public spaces.” Moreover, by building their playground as part of an art institution, Group Ludic could change the rules, they could go further in the freedom given to the children – this enormous space, with no safety standards and, most of all, no parents inside. As Xavier de la Salle writes: “This exhibition (…) sought to demonstrate the absurdity of certain taboos and prohibitions arising from fears of risk, danger, the unknown, and the mixing of age groups.”23 And for three months, one hundred and fifty thousand youngsters visited the site, a dozen of them even sleeping and eating there.

Ill. 15: Jacques Carelman, Léléfant, Artur, Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, December 1970.

  • 24 “Activités du CCI depuis sa création”, Centre de Création Industrielle CCI, Paris, CCI, 1976, pp. 2 (...)
  • 25 Ibid.
  • 26 Dominique Dupré, ibid.

35Aires de jeu aux Tuileries [Playgrounds at the Tuileries] opened a few months later, in December 197024. The exhibition was located close to the CCI (Pavillon de Marsan at the Louvre Museum) where the Artur games were exhibited; and most of all they were available for the children to use, even if the emphasis was not quite the same as in Jouer aux Halles. L’enfant [The child] a show by the same CCI was included in its Selections program, rather than its Exhibitions program25. Dealing with equipment, games and leisure, the CREE review of the event26 was written in a very pro-child militant style, and called it “a kind of utopian manifesto”.

Ill. 16: Philippe Poncet de la Grave, Toboggan-tucan, c. 1972.

  • 27 Unsigned, “Jeux d’enfants de plein air”, CREE n°22, Paris, p.87

36The Place au jeu show in the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne in winter 1972-1973 exhibited the products of six European publishers of outdoor games designed by the likes of illustrators Étienne Delessert or Philippe Poncet de la Grave27. But as the press release explained, the idea was not for people to use or interact the equipment, rather: “This exhibition has been designed to inform visitors”.

Ill. 17: Marc Bankowsky, net playground for l’Atelier des enfants, Paris, 1977.

  • 28 Jean-François Grunfeld (dir.), La Ville & l’Enfant, Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou - CCI, 1977
  • 29 Unsigned, “Les Enfants – ateliers jeux”, CREE n°46, Paris, Jan./Feb. 1977, pp. 98-102

37The closing show of this era was La Ville et l’Enfant [The child and the city] in 1977, a cross-cutting exhibition by the CCI (once more!), which was by this time housed in the brand new Centre Georges Pompidou, and it was quite typical of what this museum’s approach, in the way it covered topics from a very open perspective. There were conferences, lots of screenings for children, but surely no playground here28. In fact, this role was assigned to a specific area of the Centre Pompidou. Called l’Atelier des enfants [The children’s workshop], the initial idea was to create a place where workshops, exhibitions and giant games designed by artists would coexist, as had already taken place for a few years at a previous temporary location rue des Francs-Bourgeois29. L’Atelier des enfants was the lasting version, the institutionalisation of these various shows where children could play and experiment with what artists had designed for them, of the playground in the art world.

Playgrounds in the Shop

38We are now coming to the third and last type of playground reviewed, “the playground in the shop”.

  • 30 Juliet Kinchin, Century of the Child, New York, MoMA, 2012, pp. 111-113

39Progressive toy manufacturers have always been at the avant-garde of retail display (think of Marjorie and Paul Abbatt’s 1936 toy shop in London, designed by Erno Goldfinger30) but the popularity of the new playground designs and this wave of freedom given to children to help them grow better, would join together with the ideas of some toy manufacturers who were working more or less on the same goals: shapes, colors and the autonomy of the child.

Ill. 18: Children playing with Fredun Shapur’s Playsacks, Creative Playthings store, New York, 1970.

  • 31 Dominique Dupré, “Playthings”, CREE n°6, ibid., pp. 60-61

40The first story, simply entitled Playthings, was part of the sixth issue dedicated to the child’s space31. The success of the toy brand Creative Playthings led Stephen Miller, one of the executives of the company and also a member of the International Council for Children’s Play, to open a flagship store in Manhattan. The concept for this place was to leave children alone, to let them use and choose the toys they liked without adult interference, be they parents or sales assistants. The space, designed by the architects collective Studio Works, was amazing. Modular and colourful in design, it featured a big playroom, audiovisual animations to be controlled by kids, a screening room with abstract or concrete programs, audio games allowing the young ones to create music, the biggest marble track in the world and so on. Let’s not forget that the toys for sale were displayed “like in a museum” as the author writes, this clarification adding an additional proof of the avant-garde vision of the shop’s designers.

Ill. 19: Childcraft entrance. Please note the two doors: one for adults, and a lower one for children.

  • 32 Dominique Dupré, “Childcraft”, CREE n°8, ibid., pp. 60-61
  • 33 Milton Glaser, Graphic design, New York, The Overlook Press, 1973

41In issue eight, CREE's editors covered a similar example, also in New York32. The Childcraft Center was designed by Milton Glaser: “Asked to design a store for children in New York, in my profound ignorance of what was involved, I said yes. I went about it in a totally amateurish way, making little paper mock-ups to demonstrate my ideas to the contractors. After considerable confusion, it all worked out.”33 On the facade we can see two doors, one reserved for adults, and a lower one for children. From the entrance, therefore, children were seen as separate from their parents, even if the two doors opened onto the same space. The message was clear: the Childcraft Center was intended for children.

Ill. 20: Piccoli by Jean-Jacques Miel, Paris, 1971.

  • 34 Josiane Marié, “Boutique aire de jeux”, CREE n°11, Sept./Oct. 1971, pp. 30-31

42The other article about a store designed as a playground was entitled Boutique aire de jeux [Shops as playgrounds]. Published less than a year later34, it was about a clothing store for children in the center of Paris. The writer of this piece sounded upset by snobbish trendy shops designed for wealthy hip parents. Designed by young architect Jean-Jacques Miel, it was supposed to be dedicated to children, as he asked them what they wanted to have in their shop. We can be sure they enjoyed grabbing skirts out pipes or picking up jackets from tree-like racks.

43Strangely, the vision of the child as a consumer didn’t seem to pose a problem for the editors at CREE.

The Turning Point

44But this vision is probably one of the reasons why all these amazing playgrounds slowly faded away from the scenery, or, to be more precise, from CREE first and then from the real world. Xavier de la Salle from Group Ludic recalls how:

  • 35 Xavier de la Salle, “Groupe Ludic”, ibid.

45The spotlight placed on children during the 1970s faded - people realized (…) that childhood is no longer a fashionable, promising subject. The child undergoing development, the one we were concerned with, had in fact been eliminated; our attentiveness to children and the childhood environment was no longer of interest to society. In contrast, the prime target became the child as a consumer, toward whom all eyes turned.35

Ill. 21: Guy de Moreau, fir logs, 1975.

  • 36 Unsigned, “Jeux de plein air”, CREE n°36, Paris, Aug./Sept. 1975, p. 19
  • 37 Unsigned, “Enfants”, CREE n°15, Paris, May/June 1972, p. 91

46Most of the interesting features discussed above were published in the early years of this publication, from 1970 until 1973. But what happened in the intervening years up to 1977, which forms the final year of the corpus I chose to discuss here? Was the problem of the child totally erased, was it carelessly put aside? In fact, the change was more subtle, as equipment and games were still reviewed, but they were now treated as mere products. The examples of equipment designs were numerous in these years, but they were contained within small, technical, announcements. There were no more global projects, no more ambitious environments, no more children, just small yet beautiful and sometimes pertinent objects offered here and there. Thus the piece simply entitled Jeux de plein air [Outdoor games]36 is made up of only four sentences and yet it still manages to mention both the phrase “less dangerous” and “without danger”. Even three years before, a first clue should have warned us, as in another four-sentence report on equipment for playgrounds we encounter the words “security”, “accidents”, “shock”, “risk”, “wounds” and “fall” (twice)37. This type of vocabulary was not to be found in the stories I mentioned earlier, or if it was, then it was in order to stress the benefits of risk assessment carried out by children themselves for their own development.

  • 38 Unsigned, “Rondins de sapins pour enfants”, CREE n°37, Paris, Oct./Nov. 1975, p. 39

47In 197538 the structure designed by Belgian designer Guy de Moreau is depicted in five sentences, and what is its main interest? It is able to resist “children’s assaults”…

Ill. 22: Martine Durel Lobjoy and Raymond Guidot for ACNO, 1976.

  • 39 Unsigned, “Jeux de plein air”, CREE n°44, Paris, Nov. 1976, p. 54

48Now let’s have a look at a 1976 six-page feature39. Six pages, you may think: are we going to end with a positive note? No. Because these six pages are devoted to an interesting project led by designers Martine Durel Lobjoy and Raymond Guidot, but the analysis is solely focused on technical aspects: plans, pictures of prototypes on synthetic turf, but once again, no children, neither on the pictures nor in the text. Actually the word “child/children” occurs six times on these six pages, but only to describe exactly what the child will do and feel with the object. Which is precisely the opposite of what was intended in the playgrounds mentioned in the early years of CREE. Projects aimed at childhood are now shown as available products, no longer as items to build a better society.

Ill. 23: “Is French Design About to Sink?”, CREE n°36, 1975.

  • 40 Unsigned, “La Crise économique: chance ou malheur pour le design industriel?”, CREE n°32, Paris, De (...)
  • 41 Shozo Baba, “Les Architectes et Designers japonais face à la crise économique”, CREE n°34, Paris, A (...)
  • 42 Gérard Négréanu, “Le Design français va-t-il sombrer ?”, CREE n°36, ibid., pp. 40-47

49So what happened? What happened around 1973 that would make the magazine change its perspective? If we read this series carefully we can see the rise of a new kind of subject matter. Headlines included: “Economic Crisis: good or bad luck for industrial design?” in 197440, “Japanese Architects and Designers Facing the Economic Crisis” in 197541, “Is French Design About to Sink?”, in 1975 again42.

  • 43 Xavier de la salle, Espaces de jeux – espaces de vie, ibid., p.42
  • 44 Ibid., p.31

50The oil crisis of 1973, even though not unrelated to the child as a consumer, or the child as a delinquent or even the emphasis on security, is the main reason that playground projects were shelved, according to the articles from 1970 to 1977. The ideals, utopias and the ability designers and artists felt that they had to change this world, soon hit the challenging economic environment and observations of the difficulties became regular features. As both public and private budgets shrank, manufacturers and editors began to second thoughts before investing in such projects. Quality, abstract playgrounds are costly, hard to sell, and they’re not meant to last. Group Ludic said it all: a playground is not supposed to last more than a few years, a ten-year lifetime is already too long43. They also considered that using faux-wood instead of real wood was akin to calling a parking lot a playground44. But it was too late, these demands would no longer be heard.

51Of course, if we look beyond CREE, what was set up here actually lasted up to 1979 with the International Year of The Child and its celebrations. But the impetus given by the events of 1968 was the baby boomers’ swan song before the economy took over and created the world we now live in.

Conclusion

  • 45 The artist who pioneered playgrounds in the 1960s was the sculptor Pierre Székely, whose name is st (...)

52The main lesson of this study is probably the irruption of artists, cultural institutions, and art schools in the field of playgrounds for children. And their particular focus, which was on the nurturing of users' creativity and imagination, was the opposite of the tendency that has prevailed until then, namely to create healthy facilities or educational ones45. The other point is the geography of these interventions, which were usually linked to the expansion of new towns, and sometimes to the large planned communities then in development, typical of the end of the Thirty Glorious Years.

  • 46 Modellen – en modell för ett kvalitativt samhälle by Palle Nielsen was first exhibited in 1968 as I (...)

53In the 21st century the art world still owns the potential to be the ultimate playground, like it used to be by the times of Play Orbit. First, we can see how playground as an exhibition has now been turned into the exhibition of the playground: as a cultural artefact, an object whose history can be traced by various means, ancient playgrounds are being rebuilt, being exhibited46; they have become heritage. After all, Jouer aux Halles was already an exhibition, allowing this project to be liberated from urban planners’ security standards.

  • 47 Paul Cox, Jeu de construction, Galerie des enfants du Centre Pompidou, Paris, 16 Feb. - 9 May 2005, (...)
  • 48 Aurélien Débat, Cabanes, Fotokino, Marseille, 7 – 22 Nov. 2015

54The second way has been shown recently by artists such as Paul Cox47 or Aurélien Débat,48 whose installation art is a very promising way to build crazy free spaces for children to interact and experiment in these places called museums or galleries. If anything new (whether in their shape or on the social role) is to be expected in the playground, it surely will come from artists — just like in 1968.

Ill. 24: Aurélien Débat, Cabanes, Fotokino, Marseille, 7 - 22 Nov. 2015

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Notes

1 Gabriela Burkhalter, The Playground Project, Zürich, JRP/Ringier, 2016, p. 22

2 Xavier de la Salle, Espaces de jeux - Espaces de vie, Paris, Dunod, 1982, p. 33

3 Laurent Martin, “La ‘nouvelle presse’ en France dans les années 1970 ou la réussite par l’échec”, Vingtième siècle n°98, Paris, Presses de Science Po, p.58, 2008

4 This was the rather vague term used at the time, reflecting the unthinkable nature of the discipline in France at this point.

5 CREE n°2, Paris, Déc./Jan. 1970

6 CREE n°6, Paris, Nov./Déc. 1970, pp. 48-61

7 CREE n°3, Paris, Fev./Mars 1970

8 Gilles de Bure, “Le Blockhaus définitif”, CREE n°7, Paris, Jan./Fev. 1971 p.77

9 Dominique Dupré, “L’Enfant roi”, Ibid.

10 Nicole Ragot, “L’enfant, fléau social”, CREE n°6, ibid., p.48

11 L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui - L’Architecture et l’Enfance, n°25, Paris, Août 1949
L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui - L’Architecture et l’Enfance n°154, Paris, Fév./Mars 1971
L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui - L’Enfant et son espace, n°204, Paris, Sept. 1979

12 Werner Stutz, “Les Espaces de jeux pour enfants”, CREE n°14, Paris, Mars/Avril 1972, pp.50-53

13 Alain Bertrand, Sculptures-jeux, CREE n°2, ibid., blind folio

14 Claude O’Sughrue, “Fantaisie en briques”, CREE n°3, Paris, Feb./March 1970, blind folio

15 Alain Bertrand, “La Discipline collégiale”, CREE n°4, Paris, Apr./May 1970, pp. 32-41

16 Corin Hughes-Stanton, Play Orbit, ibid., pp. 50-53

17 Gabriela Burkhalter, ibid., pp. 146-153

18 Ben Cranfield, “All Play and No Work? A ‘Ludistory’ of the Curatorial as Transitional Object at the Early ICA”, London, Tate Papers no.22, Autumn 2014

19 Unsigned, “L’inattendu dans la rue”, CREE n°20, Paris, March/Apr. 1973, p. 89

20 Calendrier des expositions, CREE n°35, Paris, June/July 1975, p. 28

21 Dominique Dupré, “Structures jeux”, CREE n°6, ibid., pp. 50-51

22 Simon de la Salle, ibid., p. 34

23 Simon de la Salle, Group Ludic, The Playground Project, ibid., pp. 194-214

24 “Activités du CCI depuis sa création”, Centre de Création Industrielle CCI, Paris, CCI, 1976, pp. 20-21

25 Ibid.

26 Dominique Dupré, ibid.

27 Unsigned, “Jeux d’enfants de plein air”, CREE n°22, Paris, p.87

28 Jean-François Grunfeld (dir.), La Ville & l’Enfant, Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou - CCI, 1977

29 Unsigned, “Les Enfants – ateliers jeux”, CREE n°46, Paris, Jan./Feb. 1977, pp. 98-102

30 Juliet Kinchin, Century of the Child, New York, MoMA, 2012, pp. 111-113

31 Dominique Dupré, “Playthings”, CREE n°6, ibid., pp. 60-61

32 Dominique Dupré, “Childcraft”, CREE n°8, ibid., pp. 60-61

33 Milton Glaser, Graphic design, New York, The Overlook Press, 1973

34 Josiane Marié, “Boutique aire de jeux”, CREE n°11, Sept./Oct. 1971, pp. 30-31

35 Xavier de la Salle, “Groupe Ludic”, ibid.

36 Unsigned, “Jeux de plein air”, CREE n°36, Paris, Aug./Sept. 1975, p. 19

37 Unsigned, “Enfants”, CREE n°15, Paris, May/June 1972, p. 91

38 Unsigned, “Rondins de sapins pour enfants”, CREE n°37, Paris, Oct./Nov. 1975, p. 39

39 Unsigned, “Jeux de plein air”, CREE n°44, Paris, Nov. 1976, p. 54

40 Unsigned, “La Crise économique: chance ou malheur pour le design industriel?”, CREE n°32, Paris, Dec. 1974, pp. 37-39

41 Shozo Baba, “Les Architectes et Designers japonais face à la crise économique”, CREE n°34, Paris, April-May 1975

42 Gérard Négréanu, “Le Design français va-t-il sombrer ?”, CREE n°36, ibid., pp. 40-47

43 Xavier de la salle, Espaces de jeux – espaces de vie, ibid., p.42

44 Ibid., p.31

45 The artist who pioneered playgrounds in the 1960s was the sculptor Pierre Székely, whose name is strangely absent from the magazine. Perhaps a matter of generation?

46 Modellen – en modell för ett kvalitativt samhälle by Palle Nielsen was first exhibited in 1968 as I wrote earlier. It was re-activated in 2013 in Paris as a part of the Nuit Blanche events. In 2015 the Brutalist Playground show in London featured a reconstruction of elements of post-war structures in foam.

47 Paul Cox, Jeu de construction, Galerie des enfants du Centre Pompidou, Paris, 16 Feb. - 9 May 2005, Aire de Jeu, Fotokino, Marseille, 13 Jun. – 2 Aug. 2015

48 Aurélien Débat, Cabanes, Fotokino, Marseille, 7 – 22 Nov. 2015

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Table des illustrations

Légende Ill. 1: CREE issues n°2,3 & 6
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Légende Ill. 2: Henri Bonnemazou, Le Reptile indéfinissable torture la ruine ridicule, CREE n°20, p.27, 1973.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 408k
Légende Ill 3: Guy Boucher, seesaw, c.1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 268k
Légende Ill. 4: Le Pays des Jeunes, photographie de Koen Wessing, c. 1970 (droits réservés).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 280k
Légende Ill. 5: Illustration for Werner Stutz’ “Les Espaces de jeux pour enfants”, CREE n°14, Paris, Mars/Avril 1972, pp.50-53
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 256k
Légende Ill. 6: Jean-Michel Folon, Folom, Artur, 1969.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 268k
Légende Ill. 7: Ariane Vuarnesson, Tripodes for Sculptures-jeux, c.1969
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 272k
Légende Ill. 8: Michèle Goalard & Albert Marchais, La Grande Motte, 1969.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 216k
Légende Ill. 9: L’Œuf Centre d’études, poured concrete modules, Goussainville, c. 1969.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 328k
Légende Ill. 10: Play Orbit exhibition, Royal Welsh Eisteddfod, Flint, summer 1969.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 328k
Légende Ill. 11: Eventstructure Research, Dragon, 1969.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 104k
Légende Ill. 12: Bernard Lagneau, Lieu mécanisé n°13, CCI (Musée des Arts Décoratifs), Paris,1975.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 248k
Légende Ill. 13: Groupe Ludic, Jouer aux Halles, Paris, 15/07/1970 - 10/09/1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 220k
Légende Ill. 14: Groupe Ludic, Jouer aux Halles, Paris, 15/07/1970 - 10/09/1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 244k
Légende Ill. 15: Jacques Carelman, Léléfant, Artur, Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, December 1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 104k
Légende Ill. 16: Philippe Poncet de la Grave, Toboggan-tucan, c. 1972.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 308k
Légende Ill. 17: Marc Bankowsky, net playground for l’Atelier des enfants, Paris, 1977.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 252k
Légende Ill. 18: Children playing with Fredun Shapur’s Playsacks, Creative Playthings store, New York, 1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 268k
Légende Ill. 19: Childcraft entrance. Please note the two doors: one for adults, and a lower one for children.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 264k
Légende Ill. 20: Piccoli by Jean-Jacques Miel, Paris, 1971.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 248k
Légende Ill. 21: Guy de Moreau, fir logs, 1975.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 308k
Légende Ill. 22: Martine Durel Lobjoy and Raymond Guidot for ACNO, 1976.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 188k
Légende Ill. 23: “Is French Design About to Sink?”, CREE n°36, 1975.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Légende Ill. 24: Aurélien Débat, Cabanes, Fotokino, Marseille, 7 - 22 Nov. 2015
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1856/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 100k
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Référence électronique

Loïc Boyer, « Designing spaces for the child in France by the early 1970s according to CRÉE magazine », Strenæ [En ligne], 13 | 2018, mis en ligne le 15 mai 2018, consulté le 22 juillet 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/1856 ; DOI : 10.4000/strenae.1856

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Auteur

Loïc Boyer

56 boulevard Alexandre Martin
45000 Orléans –FR
Email: monsieur@ccmag.fr
Tel.: +33 6 51 77 21 82

Previously an illustrator in Paris, publisher of fanzines in Rouen and stuck in the snow in Vesoul, I am now a graphic designer in Orléans. I manage a collection of picture books published by Didier Jeunesse dedicated to old publications for children and am also the founder of Cligne Cligne Magazine, a webzine dedicated to drawing for young people in all its forms. Finally, I am a research fellow at the InTRu laboratory.

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