Play Again is a trifold approach to learning involving: a) play and games as social engagement tools for cultivating participant trust or “buy-in”; b) performance and experience of a central idea, a core concept for building a common language and communication tool across design disciplines, both public and counter-public; and c) graphic translations of core concepts across disciplinary languages into a common, socially-centered, equitable approach to design in public space. This pedagogic approach is summarized as doggie-paddle design 101: Throw students into a contentious public design question currently affecting the world and where they live, take them into that space, and have them learn how to stay afloat as they go.
Research lattices twist real lives with beguiling legacies and atrocious memories—recognized and unrecognized—that converge and materialize in the American landscape today. In Play Again, ars memorea is at stake, the art of (public) memory. Blind trainers and teachers at the Missouri School for the Blind, a Play Again community partner, trained students in the art of not seeing while still understanding; finding their way when they cannot see a way forward and backward. Sociologist David Cunningham joined the Play Again play for an intensive three-day research excursion to Stone Mountain, Georgia, which boasts the largest confederate memorial in the United States (and largest bas-relief carving in the world). “Americans,” as James Baldwin writes, still “suffer from an ignorance which is not only colossal, but sacred.”
Students also enacted, and literally acted, readings of Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun” at various locations throughout St. Louis, such as in the traffic medium on Grand Avenue. Eating raisins, sharing tea, and reading aloud together gave the class a way to re-approach non-hierarchical, lateral teaching models that engage current and historic conversations around race and gender as they intersect with American urban landscapes. (Thank you to Adrienne Brown, Vice-Chancellor of Washington University and Ambassador of the Why to Play Again, who recommended this play.) As play cultivates new instruments for design as a civic muscle, innovative design organon’s spark. The design objective was to render the world more real, rather than to merely make renderings of it.
These terms converged as design ideas experienced in an embodied, apperceptive way. Research was enacted across three scales:
- The Historic Body—public memory, culture, research specifics of site, and communities
- The Park Body—mapping eyes/seeing, ears/hearing, mechanical and self-locomotion, urban infrastructure, the far-out
- The Garden Body—the nearby mappings engaging taste, smell, touch; the contract of foot-steps to grade
With climate change upon us, vast alters of oikos are at stake. Home-anomalies and other inevitable ecologies and economies, defining and undefining us, are re-approached through new optics and tools of landscape architecture. Unlike the way a person should approach a large cat, landscape architecture pedagogy looks life in the eye. It is a living bridge between different disciplinary languages, techniques, and the world. Play Again studio sharpened these world-touching tools.
Ambassadors of the Why:
David Cunningham, Carlie Lee & Timothy Cobb (Missouri School for the Blind), Richard Rose (NAACP Atlanta), J. W. Joseph, Mary Beth Reed, Pam Enlow DeVore, & Diana Valk (New South Associates), Martin Felsen, Adrienne Davis, Geoff Ward, Liz Kramer, Kristin Fleischmann Brewer, Rod Barnett, Micah Stanek, Amela Parcic, Lynn Peemoeller, Gavin Kroeber, Georgia Daskalakis, Brea McAnally, Timothy Portlock, Petra Kempf, Laura Ginn, Linda Samuels, Constance Vale, Lauren McDaniel