Landscape: Posts

Featured Authors: Katherine Masiulanis and Elizabeth Cummins

Katherine Masiulanis and Elizabeth Cummins are our latest Routledge Featured Authors. Read our interview to discover more about their recent publication, How to Grow a Playspace: Development and Design.

"In the end, playspaces not only contribute to the positive development of the next generation, but also are important hubs for community interaction."

Katherine Masiulanis (AILA) is a registered landscape architect based in Melbourne, Australia. She is the Director of Leaf Design Studio, which specialises in combining landscape architecture with interpretive design. Having started her career as an industrial designer, she has a broad base of design skills. Katherine has worked on the design of play environments since 1998 in various capacities, allowing her to complete many award-winning designs. She has a particular interest in the enrichment of play with sculptural and artistic

Elizabeth Cummins is a qualified landscape architect and educator. Beginning her professional life as an early childhood teacher, Elizabeth has worked as both a pre-school and primary educator in Australia, the UK and Japan. After qualifying as a landscape architect, Elizabeth worked professionally with Jeavons Landscape Architects and has lectured and tutored at RMIT University, Melbourne. Elizabeth has also spent many years working in and for local government. In 2011 Elizabeth established Bricolage Design, which specialises in design and strategic planning, particularly for children’s environments. Elizabeth is a founding coordinator of the Creative Cubby Project, a local initiative to encourage creative play for children. She is a member of Play Australia and in 2015 co-authored their guide to risk benefit assessment, ‘Getting the Balance Right’. Elizabeth blogs regularly on play and projects for children.

A combination of things. Firstly, the chance to share the fundamental knowledge and tools to develop and create better designed playspaces in the future. We hope to challenge people to look differently and inspire them to be more flexible in their thinking about what makes a great place to play.

Also, we both had areas of particular interest in this field, which our normal working days did not allow us to fully investigate. Writing the book enabled us to look more deeply and satisfy our professional curiosities. It is an area of design which is always changing.

That there is no one ‘right’ way to think about play. It’s a complex field, and different environments, cultures and circumstances demand different approaches. In that way it’s rather like landscape architecture in general: our work is always site responsive, but with play the basic philosophy with which you approach the task has a huge impact on the outcome.

There are quite a few! For a start, play happens 'everywhere' not just in formalised playgrounds and there are many different types of equally valuable playspaces for kids.

There is also a belief in some quarters that playspace design is a bit ‘fluffy’ - perhaps because it has to do with children - whereas in fact it is one of the most complex and hotly contested areas of landscape architecture in which to practice. Not only are there all the various approaches to decide between for each site, but it’s also necessary to deal with issues of standards, safety and risk which can get quite emotive.

In the end, playspaces not only contribute to the positive development of the next generation, but also are important hubs for community interaction. Done well, they give designers some of the best opportunities to use their skills in the industry.

Perhaps to think about play from multiple points of view, especially a child's perspective. Don't always limit your reading of play through the lens of health or education. Play is compulsive, fluid, and often hard to understand logically from an adult perspective. Play is however essential for a multitude of reasons, not the least because it ‘is’ in itself play.

There are two points of difference in ‘How to grow a playspace’. Firstly, we have asked experts, academics, artists and play workers from around the world to contribute, and so the book intentionally does not have a single overriding philosophy. In fact, we actively encourage readers to make up their own minds about the right approach to their project, whether it be nature-based play or highly designed urban play; structured or completely free-form environments; designed by adults or by children.

Also, as we are both practicing landscape architects (rather than academics), we bring a real world and practical sensibility to the book. It does discuss theory and the fundamental frameworks for play, but also looks at the messiness of real life. For this reason we thought it was important to include sections on ergonomics, and the ‘Potting Shed’ which gives some pointers on aspects like funding, consultation, and tendering processes. Likewise, we asked our contributing designers to think about what they might have done differently if they had their time again.

‘How to grow a playspace’ is not intended to be a showcase of the perfect multimillion dollar playspace, rather it's intended as a guide and mentor to help people through their real life projects.

Featured Title

  • How to Grow a Playspace

    Development and Design, 1st Edition

    Edited by Katherine Masiulanis, Elizabeth Cummins

    How to Grow a Playspace takes you through a global perspective of the different stages of child development and the environments that engage children in play around the world. From the urbanity of Mumbai; to rainbow nets in Japan; nature play in Denmark; recycling waste in Peru; community building…

    Paperback – 2017-03-24