June 14, 2010

Awesome OG Playgrounds In Reston, VA

Lake Anne Plaza Playground, Reston

The kid recently had a birthday party nearby, so I took K2 with me to visit Lake Anne Plaza, the original center of Reston, Virginia, a novelty of mid-century modernist urban planning. Reston was founded in 1963, a white flighty attempt to create an ideal, city-centered community from scratch, far from the problems of the real city.

The master plan and the first phase of the development, Lake Anne Plaza, was designed by James Rossant, a former student of Walter Gropius, who cited Portofino as an inspiration. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Lake Anne Plaza Playground, Reston

Rossant designed the townhouses on the lakefront plaza, along with the retail and civic buildings, a church, and the lone condo tower, all in a competent but unremarkable brick modernist style. What I can't tell is if Rossant is also responsible for Lake Anne's kind of awesome concrete playgrounds.

Lake Anne Plaza Playground, Reston

They look awesome, anyway. Also a little harsh. K2 liked scampering/wandering around the play area with a boat-shaped indentation near the lake. And she liked the maze-like concrete ziggurat tucked into some trees even more. It's funny how threatening these things look to the modern parent's eye. And yet, they're fine.

If the playground structures weren't by Rossant, I'd guess they are by M. Paul Friedberg, one of the great modern playground and landscape designers, whose firm did design some adventure playground sites in other parts of Reston. I guess I could check around. Though not with Rossant, who passed away last December.


I lived in Reston when it was first built. I remember Lake Anne well. I even remember the stairs in the aft-ground of your first photo. I do NOT remember these concrete structures. I believe they were added some years after Lake Anne was built.

All these play structures were here since at least 1970. Probably since the 60's. I played on them as a 2 and 3 year old in 1972/73.

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