My interest in Savage Park by Amy Fusselman comes from the fact that I’m in the middle of a very large project to redevelop the schoolyard at my daughter’s school. This has lead me to learn a lot about different theories of play, child development, and how to manage risk in play situations.
Lucky for you none of this is necessary to appreciate Fusselman’s meditation on space and play as presented in Savage Park. Savage Park, as you soon discover, is Fusselman’s name for Hanegi play park in Tokyo. It breaks the norms of what most North American’s consider a park to be. It is rustic, creative and perhaps a little dangerous. Children are given free-reign with tools in hand, to construct whatever they feel like. There are no formal play structures, there are no special constructed surfaces to fall upon, there are (almost) no rules.
Hanegi Park makes Fusselman question traditional North American conception of space and play, and in particular our need to try to protect our children at every turn. From the research I’ve done, this can actually be almost detrimental. Children need to learn how to manage risk in their daily lives to live in a world that isn’t child-proofed. As a child one of my favorite places to play was down by the railroad tracks. Safe? probably not, but fun it was.
Who would like this book? Even though I am naturally drawn to some of the topics Fusselman explores in her book, I think Savage Park can appeal to a wider audience. As I’ve said, it really is a mediation of space and makes one question many of the conceptions that shape the world around us. I also think it would be of particular interest to parents or those who work with children. But beyond this, it is also a beautifully written, poetic read.