Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Breaking ground: An innovative playscape fit for The Henry Ford

April 23, 2013 Think THF

I got excited when I learned a playscape was in the works at Greenfield Village.

Actually, at first, I got a little nervous.

I couldn’t picture the typical playscape situated anywhere in the landscape of Greenfield Village. When I learned the overall theme suggests a 1920s-era construction site, I was definitely intrigued.

Then, I saw the location – which is ideally situated behind the carousel, near a restroom and in close proximity to food and the Smith’s Creek Depot. It’s a perfect spot for a respite. Oh, and it’s fenced in, allowing a safe play area and a more relaxing experience for the adults minding their children there.

So last week, I was thrilled when I learned from The Henry Ford’s president, Patricia Mooradian, the plan does not include the trademark red or yellow fiberglass slide familiar to playgrounds, but it does include the opportunity for children to play and explore some real artifacts, including a boardable 1931 Ford Model AA truck and a 20-foot-long boiler tunnel that originally sat near the Armington and Sims Machine Shop inside the village.

Greenfield Village's New PlayscapeThat just reinforced what I already know: That even when it comes to adding a contemporary feature like a playscape – The Henry Ford is all about guests experiencing history in a unique way. The playscape provides another opportunity – this time directed at children – to climb right inside a piece of history. (Think about taking a seat inside the Rosa Parks Bus, a tour of the Dymaxion House, a visit to the Wright Brothers’ shop, and eating a meal Lamy’s Diner – you get the picture). The playscape gives children access to artifacts in a way that is meaningful for them – with the added bonus of a spot to run off some steam. (Which I so gladly welcome.)

I thought: Nice, that really takes the cake.

That is, until I learned that the new playscape is carefully designed for enjoyment by children of all abilities, and most of the activities are ground-level accessible or accessible by ramp. There are varying sculptural swings so all children – whether fully-able or without full control of their arms and legs – may enjoy them.

“We hope that this playscape can serve as a model for others to become more aware and more willing to adopt design principles that address the interest and needs of people, especially children, of all abilities,” Patricia told guests at the groundbreaking ceremony.

A little ceremonial dirt throwing and the groundbreaking is official! The playscape will open to guests in early fall. In the photo left to right: The Henry Ford’s chairman of the board, Evan Weiner; Dearborn mayor John O’Reilly; Don and Mary Koch, and Patricia Mooradian.

This playscape and The Henry Ford’s recent partnership with Autism Awareness Alliance of Michigan, are examples of forward thinking that continue to honor Henry Ford - the man – while realizing the institution’s mission: to provide unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and lives from America's traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation.

I love that through these two initiatives, The Henry Ford goes beyond addressing challenges of just accessibility for visitors all abilities – but keeps focused on its purpose – which is to inspire them for a better future.

The new playscape is made possible thanks to the generosity of Don and Mary Koch. Here they are pictured with their littlest grandson and daughter-in-law Katherine

I know I’m inspired – yet again – and I can’t wait for my little ones try it out.

Related: Greenfield Village Breaks New Ground on Children's Playscape

playgrounds

Facebook Comments