Field Notes

Brooklyn's Imagination Playground Is A Place For Real Friends

Deep in the green of Prospect Park is an unconventional playground giving Noguchi.


Field Notes is a monthly column covering the beautiful and strange structures that decorate the New York City landscape. From playgrounds to whimsical hidden gems, the city’s finest forms of design and architecture are dissected here.

The beauty of city living is the ever-present anticipation of never knowing what to expect. You may find some money on the ground, your train could be rerouted and you need to transfer in a few stops, extending your commute by thirty minutes over what you anticipated, or you can run into a friend or foe at a moment’s notice. The highs are high, and the lows are low.

All in all, these are parts of the dazzling yet grime-stained package of life in this big apple! The city unfolds narratives for us to share with whoever is willing to listen. Countless stories have been materialized in films, novels, and artworks, as some moments are just too good to be kept to oneself. Despite the consistent inconsistency of metropolitan life, there are always places to escape with friends, places where you can create a microcosm of your design. One destination that will foster fantasy is Imagination Park, located in Prospect Park.

As far as playgrounds go, this one is quite untraditional, as the usual accouterments of slides, swings, and monkey bars are missing. The entertainment found in this park is waiting to be created by those sharing the space. You create the fun you want to have in the world! The three empty plazas were designed to allow the mind to play. This is an outdoor performance space for those who are unafraid to world build in public with their team of trusted thespians. As written into the drama canon by William Shakesphere, “All the world’s a stage.” Throughout our lives we are constantly performing for an audience of our peers, but more often than not we are led to the stage without rehearsals. There is no preparation for scathing reviews, wardrobe mishaps, or set disasters. A space for free-form collaboration may not eradicate stage fright, but it could be a remedy.

“As far as playgrounds go, this one is quite untraditional, as the usual accouterments of slides, swings, and monkey bars are missing. The entertainment found in this park is waiting to be created by those sharing the space.”

Nested in one of the archways is a watchful eye, in which I sensed a protective aura emanating from its gaze as opposed to a more menacing surveillance sensation: the ghost light of the playground. A moon and twinkling star defy the time of day, adding an essence of dream-like wonder to the space of play. The surreal combination of the all-watching eye and the strictly black and white color palette made me feel as if I stumbled into an M. C. Escher drawing; the v-shaped bridge connecting two of the plazas surrounded by a wavy white railing gave me a sense that stories are in a perpetually shifting state here yet always lead somewhere.

Sharing stories of the day’s events, putting on an impromptu show, or simply sitting in silence, this playground provides the framework and space to play without confines. There are a few permanent residents that I’m sure would love to have a role in the stories that are being crafted. The star of the playground is a bronze dragon that is framed in a hollowed-out storybook. Their mouth is agape, eagerly waiting for their story to be written. A parade of cats, elephants, and assorted animals are also gathered to vie for a moment in the spotlight of a comedy or drama. Once again, they await the expressive faces of their visitors to activate their emotions.

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Spending time here reminded me of another magical gem in the city, Hillman Garden. Over the Manhattan Bridge and through the bowels of the MTA awaits a secret garden nestled in the Lower East Side that is home to a bowtied bunny and bear taking in the weather on a bench, an excited puppy perpetually frozen in anticipation of being told how good they are, and my prince charming (the lowkey frog in the bushes flexing with his crown).

I was also pleasantly surprised to find a corner of the garden occupied by a plethora of mini-sculptures with styles reminiscent of Barbara Hepworth and Isamu Noguchi. Although there are plenty of new friends to see and meet here, chairs and benches are scattered throughout the garden, making this a perfect spot to share with human company.


At times, it's difficult to connect with the ones we want to spend time with the most. Who isn’t performing a balancing act of business and pleasure? These spaces are at their best when activated with company; however, there are hidden creatures for comfort awaiting a visit.

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