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Isamu Noguchi with plaster model for Contoured Playground (1941) and jungle gym element from Playground Equipment for Ala Moana Park (c.1940).

In Search of Contoured Playground

August 21, 2019 – February 2, 2020
  • Model for Contoured Playground, with original equipment attachments, 1941. Plaster and steel. Photo: F.S. Lincoln. Reproduced with the permission of the Special Collections Library, the Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

Presented in Area 6 on the first floor, In Search of Contoured Playground provides visitors multiple ways to experience a never-built Noguchi playscape.

Isamu Noguchi first created the design for Contoured Playground in 1941, utilizing “earth modulations” to construct a compact landscape for freeform play. For this exhibition, developed in collaboration with architect Naomi Frangos, Contoured Playground is explored as theoretical architecture. The centerpiece of the installation is a 10-foot-square enlargement of Noguchi’s model, featuring his original proposals for equipment (known from just one archival photograph). The exhibition also includes a 1:1 scale silhouette of the topography of Contoured Playground from the perspective of someone standing in the middle of the actual playground (had it been built), the bronze cast of the original model, and a number of other schematic interpretations of the overall plan.

In Search of Contoured Playground is co-curated by Noguchi Museum Senior Curator Dakin Hart and Naomi Frangos, Visiting Associate Professor, Cornell University, and is supported in part by a Design History Society Research Exhibition Grant. The exhibition is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council and from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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