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A Landscape of the Imagination

TO Design, LLC, New Britain, Conn., Landscape Architecture, Site Design, Civil Engineering





The swinging options (inset) at Devoni? 1/2 s Place Playground in Norwalk, Conn. include belt seats, molded (colorfast polyethylene) bucket seats with harnesses and high backs to provide head, neck and back support, and the arch tire swing. The tire swing is not quite like the ones Dad used to hang from a tree limb. This one has a 360-degree rotating pivot point and self-lubricating stainless steel hanger. The other swings all have anti-wrap swing hangers.



Completed in 2004, Devoni? 1/2 s Place is an enchanted landscape that transforms the play experience into a journey of the imagination. The one acre landscape provides challenges, thrills, and opportunities to children of all physical, social and mental abilities, including, those that are severely challenged. Working with Boundless Playgrounds, the national organization that advocates for and facilitates the construction of fully accessible play environments, and the city of Norwalk, Conn., TO Design LLC, Landscape Architects designed the site.

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The entrance to the playground is through nautical wood pilings, skeleton watches connected by a steel framework sign that reads i? 1/2 Devoni? 1/2 s Place,i? 1/2 and sports a seagull.



In early 2002, Norwalk resident Susan Jacoby was frustrated about the cityi? 1/2 s lack of an accessible play area for physically challenged kids, like her son, Devon. Just to situate you geographically, Norwalk (pop. 85,603) is in the southwestern corner of the state, and considered part of the New York metro area. Susan approached Michael Mocciae, director of Norwalk Recreation and Parks with her concerns. Parks & Rec graciously offered a site for such a playground. Jacoby was pleased, of course, but looking at the topography, a bleak, treeless hillside, it took some imagination to envision an accessible playground. Still, there was one plus to the site: It was adjacent to one of Norwalki? 1/2 s most popular attractions, Stepping Stones Childreni? 1/2 s museum. Jacoby quickly established a nonprofit foundation, and set about raising the $700,000 required for such a project. The city of Norwalk generously donated the land.

When it came time to engage a landscape architect, Jacoby chose TO Design, as the multidisciplinary firm had deep experience and dedication to the design and construction of fully accessible and integrated playgrounds. Phil Barlow ASLA, TO Design principal, Mocciae and Jacoby were committed to designing a play area that would be challenging and stimulating to children of all abilities, a place that would allow them to use the play structures and interact and socialize with other kids. Such early play experiences can be essential to a disabled childi? 1/2 s integration and interaction with able-bodied children. For children who can run, jump and move about freely, playing alongside disabled children gives them some first-hand understanding that not all children are as physically blessed as they, an empathy for those less fortunate.

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The designers took advantage of the sitei? 1/2 s slope to create a i? 1/2 streami? 1/2 that culminates at a splash pad (Vortex Aquatic Structures), which depicts, in an impressionistic way, a whale (Wausau Tile) through arched i? 1/2 bones,i? 1/2 a dorsal fin and a tale. Large boulders provide a sculptural element upon which children who would rather watch than participate in the action, can perch.



Broad strokes and the subtleties of light, sound, texture and color transformed the site into a wonderland. By referencing Norwalki? 1/2 s nautical past, the play environment was developed as a series of seaside experiences. Editori? 1/2 s note: Norwalk used to be nicknamed Oyster Town, and still holds an Oyster Festival in September. Funds raised from the event go in part to help the Norwalk Seaport Association maintain Norwalki? 1/2 s historic Sheffield Island Lighthouse. According to seaport.org, Sheffield Island Lighthouse was an active beacon from 1868 until 1902. In 1987 the Norwalk Seaport Association purchased the old lighthouse from Thorston Stabell for $700,000. Stabell had bought the lighthouse from the U.S. government and used it as a summer residence. Sheffield Island Lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. In October 2011 the lighthouse was relit with a solar powered system, although its beacon is meant for show.

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Surrounding the lighthouse are rocky shores (boulders), shallow waters (sand) and a dock that provides access to a i? 1/2 boat.i? 1/2 An orca, aka i? 1/2 Killer Whale,i? 1/2 is sighted just offshore.



Patrons enter the grounds by passing through a gateway that sets the tone for what is to follow. The entrance to the playground immediately reveals its nautical theme with groupings of dock wood pilings connected by a steel framework, upon which is attached playful letters that spell out i? 1/2 Devoni? 1/2 s Place.i? 1/2 A seagull hovers above, riding the updrafts of air. Once through the gate, a 20-foot tall lighthouse immediately confronts visitors, standing as a beacon that invites children to play. The lighthouse is complete with foghorn and flashing lights, a delight to children of all ages.

Surrounding the lighthouse are boulders, shallow waters (sand) and a dock that provides access to a i? 1/2 boat.i? 1/2 An orca, aka i? 1/2 Killer Whale,i? 1/2 lies in the waters beyond. The boulders not only add an air of authenticity to the scene, but also provide a sculptural presence in the larger landscape.

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Adjacent to the lighthouse are playhouses set along a narrow i? 1/2 street.i? 1/2 Artisan Tom Bush of Kid Space, Inc., Canton, Conn., created these i? 1/2 shacksi? 1/2 to evoke a small fishing village. The turf areas are a mix of bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue.



Adjacent to the lighthouse is a i? 1/2 fishing villagei? 1/2 composed of small playhouses set along a narrow i? 1/2 street.i? 1/2 Local artisan Tom Bush created these features to evoke small fishing shacks.

No play landscape is complete without play structures. Devoni? 1/2 s Place continues with the nautical theme with the U.S.S. Devon, a delightful schooner upon whose bow children can survey their domain.

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Late in the construction work two Norwalk women requested some sort of memorial be located within the play area to honor their late husbands, both killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The design solution was one that complements the play environment. A spiraling path leads to a three-foot diameter granite sphere from which water flows. A simple stone bench allows for lingering and contemplation.



The designers took advantage of the sitei? 1/2 s slope to create a i? 1/2 streami? 1/2 that culminates at a splash pad where swims a small i? 1/2 whalei? 1/2 that spouts water onto delighted kids. Here again large boulders provide a sculptural element upon whose surface children who would rather watch then participate in the action, can perch.

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One of the inspirations for the playground lighthouse is Norwalki? 1/2 s historic Sheffield Island Lighthouse, an active navigational beacon from 1868 until 1902. The Norwalk Seaport Association purchased the old lighthouse from one Thorston Stabell for $700,000 in 1987. Stabell had purchased the lighthouse from the U.S. government and used it as a summer residence! Sheffield Island Lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. In October 2011 the lighthouse was relit with a solar powered system, although its beacon is now for show.



Late in the construction work two Norwalk women requested some sort of memorial be located within the play area to honor their late husbands, who were killed in the 911 attacks on the World Trade Center. The design solution was one that complements the play environment. A spiraling path leads to a three-foot diameter granite sphere from which water flows. A simple stone bench allows for lingering and contemplation.




The custom design-built lighthouse by Site Masters of Loveland, Ohio is constructed of perforated metal panels riveted together. Children can venture inside, but cannot climb to the top. The lighting for the park is the i? 1/2 Perspecti? 1/2 contemporary luminaire (Architectural Area Lighting). The benches are from DuMor. New trees on site are red maples i? 1/2 October Gloryi? 1/2 , selected for their durability, low maintenance requirements and fall color, and Kousa dogwoods.



Playing gives children opportunities to test and explore their imagination and creativity, interact and engage other children and make friends. In short, play is vital to a childi? 1/2 s development. Devoni? 1/2 s Place acknowledges and supports this role of the modern play environment. Devoni? 1/2 s Place is a regional asset for Norwalk families. Iti? 1/2 s a place that acknowledges the creativity and expansiveness of a childi? 1/2 s mind. Instead of a dumbed down i? 1/2 playgroundi? 1/2 of off-the-shelf play apparatuses, Norwalk boosts an imaginative landscape that is accessible, challenging and mentally stimulating to all children.

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Working with Boundless Playgrounds, a national organization that advocates for and facilitates the construction of fully accessible play environments, and the city of Norwalk, Conn., TO Design LLC, Landscape Architects designed the Devoni? 1/2 s Place Playground.



Devoni? 1/2 s Place Team
Norwalk Recreation and Parks Director: Michael Mocciae
Facilitator and Funder: Susan Jacoby, Jacoby Family Foundation
Landscape Architects: TO Design LLC
Play Structure Designers: Boundless Playgrounds
Schematic Design: Boundless Playgrounds, Tony Malkusak ASLA , TO Design LLC
Construction Oversight: Pinnacle One, Robert Hamelin
Contractors: Mt. View Landscape, Ed Dwyer Project Manager
City of Norwalk Rep.: Alan Lo

Manufacturing Suppliers
Play Structures: Landscape Structures Inc.
Water Play: Vortex Aquatic Structures
Lighthouse: Site Masters, Inc., Loveland, Ohio
Whirl: GameTime
Play Houses: Tom Bush, Kid Space, Inc., Canton, Conn.
Surfacing: Surface America
Killer Whale: Wausau Tile







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