MacArthur Elementary – The Playground Under the School
MacArthur Elementary is a school designed to recover quickly from rushing floodwaters. The previous building and grounds were uninhabitable after Tropical Storm Lee crippled the Susquehanna River valley with a historically destructive flood in 2011. It wasn’t feasible to relocate the school; instead, it was decided a sprawling new complex would sit atop structural columns. Landscape Architects from Appel Osborne approached Parkitects with a unique set of requirements: design a play space around and under the elevated classroom wings from materials that can either withstand a major flood event or can be quickly replaced. It took months of close collaboration, but the end result was worth the effort.
Three zones of play were established, each under their own wing with the hard court area flanked by the two age-separated equipment-centered zone. The older kids’ area includes a custom two-story Mobius-climber ship nestled in a central courtyard. Under the building, a rambling net and rope climbing structure provides a unique play experience. The smallest users can scramble along their own mini-version of the net climber, or practice their balance skills on nature-inspired GFRC logs and mushroom steppers. A trike track with custom engagement panels round out the options.