Meet Our Rockstar Lineup for UNITE: Why Play?

June 13, 2017 | | View Comments

“The opposite of play is not work – it is depression.” This infamous quote from Brian Sutton-Smith lives on through play’s most distinguished advocates and leaders, and is a driving force behind Design Museum San Francisco’s UNITE: Why Play? panel discussion on June 22nd. Our all-star panel features four of these distinguished leaders in understanding the importance of and motivations for play. Learn more about the experts, and don’t forget to grab your ticket before they sell out!

Jay Beckwith

Jay Beckwith headshot

Photo: Courtesy Jay Beckwith.

If you’ve ever set foot on a playground, you’ve seen Jay Beckwith’s work. Called “one of the fathers of the modern playground,” Beckwith started designing unique play spaces in the 1970s, and designed the first “post and deck” playground structures that are now synonymous with playgrounds everywhere. He graduated with a degree in fine arts and design in 1963, then later went back to school to study child development. He has brought together his expertise in those disciplines by consulting for Disney and Little Tikes, and designing for Gymboree. Beckwith has also advocated for playground safety—writing articles and creating programs surrounding the topic, and is a Certified Playground Safety Instructor. His stance is not to shelter children, but rather to foster an environment that encourages a healthy amount of risk-taking. Today, Beckwith remains a designer for Beckwith Associates – a firm he founded – and is involved with several other organizations and committees to promote good playground design.

“An important part of play is risk taking. It has been known for some time that learning takes place fastest when there is a high degree of failure. Kids naturally push themselves to their limits in order to develop fully. Play makes risk-taking fun.”
—Jay Beckwith

Missy Benson

Missy Benson headshot

Photo: Movement Makers.

Missy Benson is a Play Advocate for Playworld, and has been involved with play throughout her entire career. After graduating with a degree in landscape architecture from Virginia Tech, she moved to Boston, where her first few projects were designing playgrounds. According to Benson, access to playgrounds was a crucial part of her childhood, which allowed her to socialize, explore, and learn in ways that simply wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. One of the most important goals for Missy and Playworld is the promotion of inclusive play—making sure that playgrounds are designed for children of all mental and physical abilities. Design Museum San Francisco has collaborated with Playworld in Boston, Portland, and San Francisco, including their re-launch of Richard Dattner’s innovative PlayCubes.

“Be intentional as a parent about making sure that your children have time to play outdoors. Before it was part of the day. Now you need to make sure that it happens.”
–Missy Benson

Dr. Stuart Brown

Dr. Stuart Brown headshot

Photo: J. Walter Thompson.

Dr. Stuart Brown is the founder of the National Institute for Play and is one of the leaders in researching how play impacts brain development. Similar to Design Museum San Francisco, the National Institute of Play is dedicated to educating people about the importance of play, as well as developing a way to scientifically study play. Dr. Brown’s studies of play began in 1966 when analyzing perpetrators of mass violence, which led him to the discovery of how a lack of play may have rendered these perpetrators more susceptible to violent outbreaks. Brown stopped practicing clinical medicine in 1989 so that he could fully commit himself to studying play, and has been a vocal advocate for play for people of all ages ever since. As part of his mission, he has given a TED Talk on the vitality of play, and written a book on the topic; “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.”

“Nothing lights up the brain like play.”
–Dr. Stuart Brown

Phil Ginsburg

Phil Ginsburg headshot

Photo: Huffington Post.

Moderating UNITE: Why Play? is Phil Ginsburg, the General Manager of San Francisco Recreation & Parks. In his seven years at SF R&P, he has worked tirelessly to improve San Francisco’s parks, securing an additional $13.7 million in funding from the city in 2013, and the expansion of scholarship programs to make Rec & Parks classes more affordable. His work has been rewarded by the Trust for Public Land, who this month ranked San Francisco as the city with the 3rd best parks in the nation. Ginsburg has spent his whole life in and around parks, whether it be during his childhood in playing the suburbs of Philadelphia, or attending Dartmouth College, which he called “just one gigantic park.” Ginsburg stands at the forefront of play in San Francisco, by both preserving and maintaining the beautiful parks for all children, and ensuring their future by his continuous efforts to innovate in the Bay Area.

“Parks must be affordable, and access equitable, and we have a particular responsibility in underserved areas — where parks play a literal life-saving role.”
–Phil Ginsburg

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from some of the top experts in Play! Register today. 

Let’s design the next generation of Extraordinary Playscapes! Bring your child to our Kids Design Workshop on 6/24!

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About Extraordinary Playscapes

This national exhibition and education program explores the latest thinking in playground design while presenting how vital free play is to childhood development, thriving communities, and social equity.

What we learn through play impacts our physical, mental, social, and creative health — and designers, architects, and play advocates are taking notice. Extraordinary Playscapes examines the art, history, science, and importance of play, while telling the story behind some of the most incredible play spaces in the world.  Featuring over 40 international playgrounds, drawings, sketches, videos, scale models, and playable installations, the interactive exhibition examines the importance of play and the latest thinking in playground design. From towering treetop paths to hand-knit crochet playgrounds, visitors will discover how architects and designers worldwide are engaging diverse communities to translate play objectives into state-of-the-art and meaningful environments.

This expansive exhibition arrived in San Francisco on April 6th after successful residencies in both Portland, OR and Boston, MA. 

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Design & Play bookWe’re making a book!

Interested in reading more about the importance of play? Check us out on Kickstarter and help us bring this book to life!