Bauspielplatz Mümmelmannsberg, Hamburg, Germany


This archive section represents two major archives of photos and research related to the public sphere. The two bodies of research operate in a counter-argument, one is the antithesis to the other. One archive represents the closing and locking-down of public space – restricting and controlling its use and potentialities. Utilising design and architecture to defend spaces is a process that often goes hand in hand with the privatization of public space, serving the interests of a small group or class. The other archive represents an alternative paradigm and illustrates what an inclusive, playful and creative public space might look like.


Defensible/Hostile Architecture and Design Archive


The Defensible/Hostile Architecture and Design Archive is an ongoing survey of street furniture, barricades, "anti" behaviour devices, surface technologies, checkpoints etc that have proliferated across cities and towns around the world. The recent surge of defensible urbanism can be linked to many different events including – the IRA bombings in London during the 1980s, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and September 11. This particular research began after the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 and is ongoing. A small part of it was published as The Contemporary Picturesque, Nils Norman, Book Works, UK. 2001.


The Adventure Playground and Playscape Archive


The Adventure Playground and Playscape archive began in 2002 as an ongoing survey of Adventure Playgrounds. Since then it has expanded into the search for more generous, unusual or interesting playscapes, play structures, trends and ideas. Play has recently become a fashionable buzz-word used in urban planning and architecture with very little useful or serious application. This resource hopes to offer some examples of how cities do and could look, foregrounding playscapes as valuable and important public spaces. Playgrounds are a relatively recent phenomenon, appearing in late nineteenth century cities out of the desire to create clean and healthy spaces for inner-city working adults and children. In the US they had the dubious role of trying to integrate immigrants into a common society. Since then theories in play have come and gone, changing and reflecting the conditions in which children and their parents live and how urban spaces are produced. A part of this archive has been published as An Architecture of Play: A Survey of London's Adventure Playgrounds, Nils Norman, Four Corners Books, 2003.


Many of these locations and structures may have changed, been closed or removed. Please mail Dismalgarden if you know of any changes or closures so we can update the archive. 


There are very few children photographed in the Playscapes section. Those that are included are either by permission or they were included because they are unrecognisable. This was a conscious decision made from the archive's inception.




Classic Playground, NYC, USA

Anti-climb Paint, London, UK

Dog Run, NYC, USA

Anti-skate design, NYC, USA

Empire State and Chrysler Building Play Towers, NYC, USA