It’s natural to associate playgrounds with childhood and to feel nostalgic for the particular brand of whimsy that comes with early exploration and risk-taking. Maybe that’s why these spaces appeal to audiences as colourful and dynamic as the structures they are made up of. But that spirit of playfulness isn’t solely reserved for kids — nor should it only exist in outdoor spaces. Because of the creativity these public areas encourage, architects often incorporate incredibly surprising, non-traditional design elements into their construction that we’d happily have in our homes.
Rotterdam in The Netherlands is known as a playground for leading architects and has a long tradition of modern architecture in Europe. The bright yellow Cube Houses in Rotterdam designed by the late architect Piet Blom in the 1970s, are probably some of the most famous buildings in the Netherlands and attract people from all over the world. Based on the concept of "living as an urban roof", Piet Blom wanted to design a kind of village within the city and saw the houses as trees and the whole development area as a wood. I had a chance to visit them in December 2019, and have found its architecture to be utterly amazing.
While Rotterdam is known for radical architecture and forward-thinking city planning, architects around the world are also finding ways to integrate “Living in an urban roof” in their own cities too. There is an ever-growing interest by a new generation of ambitious emerging architects. So based on Rotterdam's Cube Houses concept design, I explored the idea of whether there is any similar cube house architecture in Singapore. The answer is, in my view, yes there are indeed cube house themed playgrounds in Singapore, hence this post today. An ideal playground should be a mixture of architecture, aesthetics and play value - something that both the designers and people who patronise the playground can be proud of. #dontsayinevershare
1. The Crooked Houses Playground at Block 330 Yishun Ring Road (Yishun River Green)
These crooked houses by Danish playground design firm Monstrum, are slightly slanted and play on the structure is entirely left up to the kids’ imagination. Two of the houses are linked by a bridge; one house has a slide and another has a climbing wall. It consists of 3 wobbly houses, a bakers shop and an ice cream booth. The surface around the houses is caste rubber. Two of the snake bends give room for a swing set with a birds nest swing and two common swings.
Three wobbly houses mirror the 19th century architecture of Brumleby, Copenhagen, where the same playground designed by Monstrum is found. Children can climb up the curved walls, slide out of windows and scurry from house-to-house connected by suspended bridges.
2. Colourful Cube Houses on Stilts Playground at Block 809 Yishun Ring Road (Yishun N8 Park Playground)
The whole playground was closed for renovations last year and it reopened to the public in June 2021. There are three sets of colourful houses (designed to look like tree houses) on stilts at this playground. Two of them are next to each other and consist of a taller structure and a shorter one (for the younger kids). Within each set, the houses are connected by rope bridges with ropes and slides on either end of them.
3. Colourful Cube Houses on Stilts Playground at Block 986D Buangkok Crescent (Buangkok Square Park)
These colourful cube houses actually first appeared in Buangkok Square Park. Similarly to the colourful cube houses at Yishun N8 Park Playground, they are connected via a rope bridge and at the end of the trail, kids are rewarded with a slide down.
4. Yellow Cube House Playground near Block 718 Bedok Reservoir Road
I actually saw this cute, petite single cube house playground first in this photo series, which resemble the Rotterdam's yellow cube houses. It is the first that struck the idea of finding more cube house themed playgrounds in Singapore. It really looks a small studio house to live in with a letter box outside.
5. Cube Tree House Playground at Block 106 Canberra Street (EastBrook @ Canberra)
This petite natural-inspired playground consists of a single cube treehouse and a slide.
Designing for kids is certainly not child’s play. Whilst the design process is undertaken by adults, the end-users are often children, such is the case in kindergarten, schools, and parks. Architects have a responsibility, therefore, to ensure that the built environment offers children the chance to play, explore, and learn in physical space, even in a digital age.
You may like to read my other recent blog posts on themed playgrounds in Singapore: