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The Atlanta Task Force on Play and the Georgia Institute of Technology are launching “Playable 2010,” an international design competition, to encourage creative thinking about play spaces and equipment. Some winning designs will be built.

The competition, which starts March 15, 2010, is open to artists and design professionals. The categories are:

DIY: Submissions are instruction manuals for equipment or play spaces that can be constructed from accessible, inexpensive materials.

ART: Any form as long as children can play on or with it.

PLAY SPACES: Competitors will design for specific sites, currently, one on the Atlanta Beltline and one in downtown Atlanta’s Woodruff Park. There may be more. The winners will be built.

“Playable Kids,” a children’s drawing competition, opens December 16.

This is the first such effort since the Museum of Modern Art’s “Play Sculpture Competition” in 1954, according to Susan Solomon, author of “American Playgrounds: Revitalizing Community Space.”

Inspired by the impact of the MOMA event, ATOP founder Cynthia Gentry hopes to engage a broad range of designers: artists, architects, industrial designers and landscape architects.

Child’s play is serious business, and our children don’t get enough of it — or the right kind. Self-directed play is critical in the development of skills in problem-solving and social interaction, as well as imagination. Most playground equipment available today is homogeneous and unchallenging, Solomon says.

New York architecture firm the Rockwell Group is at the leading edge of the new thinking. Its Imagination Playground in a Box, a portable kit of  blocks of various shapes, exemplifies the creativity that Gentry hopes to generate through the competition.

The children’s drawing competition is based on the important role a similar process played in shaping the design of a treehouse at Camp Twin Lakes, for which Gentry was creative director.

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