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Recrationals Sculptures of the 1970s in the Contemporary Playgrounds: to Play is Not Played

Fanny Delaunay

Research Framework: The question of the practices of the children in public space is often analyzed by a a sociology or environmental psychology point of view but and not by an urban or architectural entrance.

Objectives : This article ask the process of normalization of public places for children dedicated to the playful practices. The survey takes breast of the entertaining public places, by taking as study case the historic public play areas and the new playground of la Grande Borne.The design of this emblematic social housing project realized in France in the 1970s, bet on the interaction between the child and the city in order to design « a city where a child would be the prince » (Aillaud, 1972).

Methodology : In order to understand the practices of children, twenty-one semi-directive interviews were conducted within the leisure center of the investigated districts. To identify the modalities of conception of the urban project, eleven semi-directive interviews with project owners (designers and administrators) were realized. In addition, an archival survey was conducted.

Results : Today in renovation, the historic play area are the subject to normalization. The evolution of the representations of the child in the public place and its uses since the point of view of the designers and the administrators of places. The industrialization of the entertaining public places underlies a normative politics as well practices as forms of the space in the optics to minimize all the possible dangers. What is left of the play ?

Conclusion : The conclusions of this article point that the part of the designer is not any more to accompany the children in their process of learning of the dangers to favor their emancipation, as aspired Émile Aillaud. Nevertheless to register it in an approach of socialization which aims at minimizing the dangers incurred as well by the children as by the designers or the administrators, questioning then the potential of play of the operations and their « hidden » socio-urban roles.

Contribution : Questioning the socio-urban meaning of the playful spaces dedicated to children contributes to the new social studies of childhood (Holloway and Valentine, 2000) which report on new visibilities of children in the public place.