Future of Energy Future of Energy

6 Projects That Make a Sustainable Future Seem Possible

From an algae-powered building to a playground of recycled steel drums, these spots give designers, urban planners and others hope

(© Timothy Hursley)
smithsonian.com

Mikyoung Kim: Lion’s Park Playscape, Greensboro, Alabama

Lion’s Park Playscape in Greensboro, Alabama, was designed and built by
 students of the Rural Studio, an off-campus collaborative design-build program at Auburn University that was started by two professors, Samuel Mockbee and D. K. Ruth.

I remember attending a lecture by Mockbee, who believed that “everyone—rich or poor—deserves a shelter for the soul.” As a 21-year-old graduate design student, I was inspired to hear him talk about how design can change people’s lives and about the importance of integrating social consciousness into the designed world we live in.

Lion’s Park Playscape uses simple, recycled materials chosen based on the local climate, but it’s also a very sophisticated design. Recycled 55-gallon galvanized drums are arranged in a modular system to create cellular forms to play on. The drums also create a canopy that provides shade for kids during the summer. Kids totally love this place because there is so much to explore, from sound tubes to hide-and-seek mazes.

Lion’s Park, like everything created by Rural Studio, was designed and built through a collaborative approach with the students and faculty. Its projects thrive on bare-bones budgets, building homes with as little as $20,000.

Lion’s Park Playscape exudes a soulful, regenerative message: We are not separate from the natural cycles of the world but part of them. This sensible and pragmatic model for sustainability is being applied one community at a time by this collaborative design group, offering a model for the future that is hopeful and ecological.

Mikyoung Kim is an award-winning landscape architect.

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