Dezeen Magazine

Misting poles in playground

NBBJ and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers create LA playground

American architecture studio NBBJ has collaborated with American musician Flea to design a playground on a public housing complex in Los Angeles.

ESI Design, the east coast experience design studio within NBBJ, worked with Michael Peter Balzary, better known as Flea, on the renovation of Nickerson Gardens Playground in the Watts neighbourhood of Los Angeles.

Miulti-colored playground seen from above
American musician worked with NBBJ to design a playground in the Watts neighbourhood of Los Angeles

Best known as the bassist in the American rock band the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flea drove the project by funding it and bringing together a team of community members, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) and designers.

They wanted to create a space that would better serve Nickerson Gardens, which is the largest social housing project west of the Mississippi, according to HACLA.

Multi-colour playground with recycled surface in Los Angeles
It features a surface made of recycled materials

"We're grateful to support the Watts community with the design of a playground that can bring joy, fun, and entertainment to families throughout the year," said NBBJ managing partner Robert Mankin.

"We're honored to be among the many organizations that came together to provide much-deserved recreational space for this historically underserved community."

Blue and Orange play structure
The team worked with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles

The project included the renovation of 17,656 square feet (1,640 square metres) of playground space. ESI Design created slides, swings and a carousel for the community's children, provided by playground equipment company Kompan.

Recycled material was used for the "play-specific" surfaces in the activity areas, chosen because it is "easy to clean and repair". The material was painted fade-resistant shades of orange and yellow.

Children playing in Los Angeles playground
Shade structures and misters were included in the project

Because of the high summer temperatures during the summer in southern California, the team included misting poles and shade structures.

Also included in the renovation was an adult exercise facility.

Children playing on playground
It is on the largest social housing project on the West Coast of the USA

The choice for the project came from Flea's engagement with the community during the Covid-19 pandemic, when he volunteered there.

NBBJ contributed to the design pro bono.

"This playground represents more than just a place to play," said Watts Gang Task Force president Donny Joubert.

"Our children in Watts need to know that they matter. And Flea's investment in this community is a reminder that they haven't been forgotten."

Flea with children at playground
American musician Flea funded and organised the project

Other noteworthy playgrounds include one with red dune-like enclosures by XISUI Design in China and one with giant boulders on wheels in Australia that encourages "risk play".

The photography is by Ty Cole.