Play Space Design Competition

Submission: January 22, 2016
Registration: November 30, 2015
Language: English
Location: Philadelphia, USA
Prizes: $10,000 will be presented to three winners
Type: Open


The Infill Philadelphia: Play Space international design competition seeks to promote innovative outdoor play spaces for Philadelphia and other cities. Interdisciplinary teams are invited to create plans for an outdoor play space at one of three public space locations — a library, a recreation center, and a school. Each of the competition sites presents unique challenges and great opportunities — they are in areas with multiple child care providers as well as high populations of young children living nearby — all of whom could take advantage of improved play spaces.

Competition Process

Winning designs will meet the objectives outlined below, as well as the design goals outlined later in this competition brief. Two panels of jurors, as well as the community’s vote, will determine the winning design for each of the three sites. Each winning team will receive a cash prize of $10,000.

The property owners for the three sites — The Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and Philadelphia School District — are all interested in pursuing implementation of innovative play space designs that may emerge from this competition. In addition, William Penn Foundation has expressed interest in supporting the implementation of play spaces on these three sites.

Competition Objectives

  • Explore the role of design in revitalizing underutilized public open spaces serving children
  • Challenge everyone to think differently about playgrounds, parks and other public open spaces, going beyond traditional playground designs and concepts
  • Demonstrate how outdoor play spaces can be designed to support early childhood development and learning
  • Promote investment in learning-oriented outdoor play spaces in Philadelphia while advancing the process and implementation for three real-life sites which may act as prototypes
  • Recognize innovation and creativity in the design of public outdoor space for children

    While the focus of this design competition and initiative, as a whole, is to explore the potential for innovative play space to enhance early childhood development (primarily pre-K through third grade), it is acknowledged that truly successful play spaces for this age group must serve various age groups of children and be multigenerational.

    In addition, while the designs aspire to be prototypical and replicable, they also must respond to the context of the specific sites and the desires of the communities in which they are located. A key component of this competition is the inclusion of community input which was gathered through a community task force meeting at each site, as well as community surveys. This information was the basis for the development of the program information for each site and is to be used to inform and inspire the designs.


Infill Philadelphia: Play Space competition submissions must reflect an understanding of the power of play on early childhood development and should both inspire and inform. The competition is meant to provide innovative, but readily implementable models of outdoor play spaces for cities. In addition, the submissions are also to be contextual and responsive to the surrounding communities. Members of the surrounding communities and the general public, early childhood educators and providers, policy makers, site representatives, and implementers should be able to view the visualizations and come away with a clear sense of how each team’s solution addresses the overall design challenge and the specific site.

At the same time, entries must be grounded in reality regarding compliance with codes, safety regulations and standards, and presented with sufficient information to be evaluated by skilled designers in landscape, playground design, and civil engineering. The winning entries must be compelling and convincing to community members as well as juries comprised of experts in play, early childhood education and development, design and implementation, and public policy.

Design Competition Sites

Each design team must choose one of the following sites for its competition entry submission. Resource information such as maps, site plans, building drawings, neighborhood plans and history, and other available information will be provided for each site upon registration.


This competition is intended to promote collaboration and encourage participants to put together interdisciplinary, integrated teams.

  • Each submission must come from an integrated design team with the following requirements and recommendations:
    • ○  Each team must have a minimum of one licensed professional – a landscape architect, architect, or civil engineer.
    • ○  It is strongly recommended that entrants include an early childhood educator or child care provider on the team.
    • ○  Entrants are strongly encouraged to include additional team members with expertise in playground design, urban design, environmental design, sustainable design, stormwater management, cost estimation, and implementation.
    • ○  Teams are also encouraged to collaborate with other professionals outside of design fields such as experts in child development, play, recreation therapy, occupational therapy, nature play, environmental education, public policy, public health, community advocacy, and families who use child care.
  • There are no limits on the number of individuals from a single firm that may participate in the competition as members of teams.
  • Individuals may not participate on more than one team competing on the same design competition site.
  • Entry is prohibited by competition jurors or competition prize sponsors.

Design Awards Event and Prizes

Cash prizes in the amount of $10,000 will be presented to three winners — one for each of the three design competition sites — at the Infill Philadelphia: Play Space Design Awards, a ticketed program and reception open to the public at the Academy of Natural Sciences on March 16, 2016. The event will bring together competition entrants and other design and implementation professionals, community members and the general public, as well as early childhood education and development, play, civic and governmental leaders from throughout the area.

The program will feature an exhibit of display boards for all eligible competition entries, Pecha Kucha style presentations of the finalists’ entries, the awards jury review, and prize ceremony.

Scores will be tabulated during an intermission immediately following the presentations and awards of the first place prizes for each of the three competition sites will be announced immediately following the intermission. Attendees will have opportunity before and after the event, as well as during the intermission, to view all display boards.

Go to the competition’s website