The Play Project

Singapore | 2015

The Play Project is an aerial survey of 100 playgrounds across Singapore. Singapore is considered one of the most urbanised countries in the world, with 100% of its population living in urban areas. Back in the 1960s, people were still living in squatters and slums, and the government is credited with resettling residents into low cost state-built housing. Today, more than 80% of Singaporeans live in public housing. 

As part of its design to house residents in dense housing units, they set aside space for interaction of communities. Found in an early urban planning book, there was a stipulation of building a playground for every 700 public housing units. 

The artists Chow and Lin grew up with these playgrounds, and saw them as an integral part of their childhood. Back in those days, it is common to return home after school, and spending time in the playgrounds interacting with other children before returning home for dinner. 

As a study was made about playgrounds in Singapore, it was found there were nearly 1500 public playgrounds across Singapore, making it perhaps one of the highest playground per square meter land space in the world. 

The project was conceived in 2014, at the beginning of mass drone adoption. Before this, aerial photography is still within the domain of photographing outside helicopters, and costs were prohibitive and usage were confined to specialised and commercial applications. Chow and Lin worked with a local drone company, Avetics, and they customised a drone to carry a mirrorless camera on board. The drone costs around $10,000 at that time, still considered rather expensive by today’s standards. 

Locating the playgrounds across Singapore was a combination of writing in to the National Parks and Housing and Development Board of Singapore, along with the use of mapping technology. The playgrounds were chosen for variety, ease of photography and within legal distance from airspace and restricted zones. Some of the playgrounds were not suitable due to foliage over the playgrounds, making it dangerous to play a drone overhead. Some of these playgrounds had children playing on them when we approached the site. They were invited to clear the area and watch the process for safety reasons. 

Part of the motivation behind photographing these playgrounds were also due to the fact that Chow and Lin were a married couple and they just had their first child. She was absolutely fascinated with playgrounds - it just felt like her world when she entered, with foam mats, colourful steps and slides that were friendlier than the rest of her world. Photographing them from the air takes stock that these are tiny oasis in an urban environment, but a paradise for those who seek satisfaction from them.