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Alaska Chapter ASLA heads to Delano, Minnesota for a Play Date

Seven members of the Alaska Chapter ASLA recently traveled alongside a representative from the Anchorage School District and a designer from Utah for a factory tour and visit with the Landscape Structures, Inc. just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. The group met with executives and staff at LSI to learn about their operations, products, and inclusive play initiatives. Karl Croft at Exerplay graciously organized and hosted the wily bunch, along with Tim Barrett and John McConkey at Landscape Structures, who combined to provide an easy-going and meaningful experience. Highlights of the trip included the staff-guided walk-throughs of a complex of warehouses, home to their entire play equipment manufacturing process. The tour poked through incredibly clean and lean operating facilities, welcomed and encouraged to speak with staff and provided plenty of opportunities to witness the fabrication of various types of equipment from raw material to final product.

As a quick reference, the process can simply be summarized as: order, phase, pick, bend, weld, drill, cut, stage, weld, stage, convey, dip, coat, bake, stage, mold, rotate, stage, weld, sculpt, stage, cure, paint, stage, assemble, stage, crate, stage, ship, (install), play.After the factory tour the team was introduced to Scott Roschi, Creative Director at LSI for a rundown of the latest trends and places to go to experience the design of play. Scott shared the LSI design process by communicating important insights and nuances of product design and the composition of play, offering very honest project critiques and ‘what-if?’ moments based on both concept and real world applications. These moments are particularly important as the majority of the Alaska Chapter ASLA group is already knee-deep in design; working with spaces, places and people to develop solutions that are specific yet advance play through imagination. It was dually refreshing to be able to share connection through the design of experiences for all and have the opportunity to pose questions about why or how something might work, or not. After the informative presentation about design, one of the most recent additions to the LSI family, Jill Moore, presented in tandem with John McConkey about the roles of inclusion and play. Jill recently came onboard as the Marketing and Design Intern while John leads as the Director of Market Insights. Jill led an important discussion about what inclusion within any play environment means to individuals, to families, and for communities. LSI routinely and specifically advocates that recreation and play are critical elements in developing a socially and emotionally connected community for all individuals. Equally critical, these elements introduce challenge, risk and effort which fosters individual independence. As one of the first places for humans to interact in an independent and social way, play environments help shape the important characteristics of empathy, acceptance, accomplishment and development. Learning them can be intuitive when it can be fun too, which is most often how experiences are structured during early childhood (and adulthood!). Towards the end of the presentation, John shared access to resources that have been developed in partnership with the STAR Center in Denver, Colorado while Jill offered a uniquely personal and exceptional case to advance inclusion through her childhood experiences and success as a Paralympic athlete representing Team USA. Play serves a critical role in advancing inclusion, with the Alaska Chapter ASLA members and fellow attendees agreeing that moving the needle and raising expectations to consider play as a valuable mechanism to advance individual and community development. Additional commitments were vocalized to move beyond ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines as an imperative next step. After a day in the factory and offices of LSI, the group was encouraged to expend some energy and have some high-level fun by touring various LSI playgrounds in and around Delano and greater Minneapolis, testing equipment and reminding themselves that we’re all young at heart. The Alaska Chapter ASLA thanks Exerplay and Landscape Structures team for their generosity and commitment to advancing design, manufacturing, and inclusion through the most exciting mechanisms available within our community; play and fun. Further, the Chapter thanks all the hosts, presenters, staff and participants for their participation in an important and engaging moment: to share, learn and foster the imaginations of those who make decisions and advocate for inclusion through various roles as owners, designers and constructors. The Chapter thanks its Members for committing their time and resources to advancing the conversation and sharing the value of design and play within their communities, and as a Chapter, we are excited to be able to partner and provide these learning opportunities for our members with exceptional gratitude to Exerplay and LSI for their support and willingness to engage to advance Landscape Architecture in Alaska.

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