Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Theory of Loose Parks and Looser Libraries

"Proposed by architect Simon Nicholson in 1972, the theory of loose parts holds that playing with objects that we can rearrange in multiple ways drives creativity and innovation. Specifically, Nicholson wrote that "in any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it." link

I've currently working on generalized this into the Theory of Loose Parks and Looser Libraries

Loose Parks
If you make available  a play library of loose recreation objects for use in neighborhood parks,  people are more likely to find activities in the parks that meet their recreation needs, and are more likely to use the parks.

On weekends people can take items from this play library to use in NYC's  Riverside park...

Looser Libraries
Libraries are already really great indoor loose parks, they offer movable seating and  a selection of thousands of printed books, DVD's and other information based recreation objects. By adding other types of loose recreation objects (hula hoops, guitars, telescopes, makerbots, games, VR headsets,  tablet computers, Wi-Fi, toys  etc) to libraries they become ever looser. A Looser Library will not only attract more patrons, but it will also be better able to compete as the Internet (the loosest library for information in the world) continues to chip away at branch libraries bred and butter function- lending printed books.

Looking at Libraries nd Parks through  the Theory of Loose Parts

When you look at our libraries and parks through the Theory of Loose Parts something interesting occurs you learn libraries are parks and parks are libraries

Here's step 2...

A branch library is really loose, it has all that nice loose seating, has staff walking around loose to help you and offers thousands of loose books and DVD.'s.  in open stacks

A library with close stacks is less loose, you have to ask a librarian to get the material for you.

photo from

A reference only library is still less loose, materials can no longer leave the premise

NYPL reference only library-wikipedia image

If you take the objects in a library and  "nail them to the wall" the library becomes even less loose. And something else happens. If the library is indoors, it becomes a museum such as the Morgan Library and Museum,...

                                              Morgan Library and Museum NYC

...if it its outdoors- it becomes a neighborhood park.

In my neighborhood in NY.  a neighborhood park can be defined as an outdoor library where all the equipment is fixed. It doesn't have to be that way...

Now what happens if you start to "Loosen up a park"?

If you create a park  where loose parts are  stored in closed stacks, you now have NYC's Rockefeller Park.

Borrow equipment from play library, use in park

If you create a park where equipment is stored in "open  stacks", you now have Bryant Park

If you create a park with moveable objects in no stacks  you now have Totland

Historically, the main attraction of Totland, for the tots, are the dozens of push toys and ride-ons that have been left by families who have outgrown them. There was no need to bring your own toys — the place was covered with them.. link

So  pretty much libraries are parks and parks are libraries, the  main difference is looseness

 Most neighborhood  Libraries can be described   as a  loose  indoor park. 
Most neighborhood Parks can be described as a not loose outdoor library 


and many outdoor parks are poorly designed  fixed equipment reference only libraries.
By varying the amount of looseness they can be transform into one another. 

The Theory of Loose part shows
Why our neighborhood parks do not work very well. (not very loose)

Our branch libraries are in trouble (the internet is orders of magnitude looser).

To better serve the community

-Our neighborhood parks need to become a lot looser

-Our branch libraries need to start lending information objects that can't be found on the internet (hulu hoops, sewing machines etc)

Communications Theory and Loose Parks


Just as better encoding of information cuts data transmission costs, encoding parks facilities into low cost loose parts rather then high cost  fixed equipment, can drastically cut the cost of creating a park

If you take a park where an almost infinite amount of "information equipment"  can be "checked out" , you now have the internet.(indoors or outdoors).