Briony Hynson, of MICA’s Masters of Social Design program, will probably scold me for referring to her project in East Baltimore as a ‘playground.’ The newly envisioned green space which once served as a wasteland of flattened homes in Baltimore’s Oliver neighborhood, is an urban playscape for neighborhood children. Nearly in the shadow of Hopkins Hospital and medical complex, Briony’s vision was to create a sustainable urban, “playground” – a safe, outdoor environment for children of the neighborhood to get exercise and solace from their difficult environment. Many would call Briony a pipe-dreamer for even envisioning such a utopian plot in the harsh shadows of one of Baltimore’s most forgotten boroughs.
However lofty her aspirations were initially, Briony planned, organized, and built a substantial and revolutionary playscape that far exceeded even her expectations. Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending some time chatting with Briony on site, on one of Bmore’s most beautiful spring days – one that was made even brighter by the spirit of selfless souls that have worked day after day to make the lives of a small section of Bmore’s youth that much better. With the help of The 6th Branch, an organization devoted to helping post-9/11 veterans in their rehabilitation while improving Baltimore, Briony has taken her Deutsch Fellowship and put it to good use. From basketball hoops and a football field, to triceratops-shaped monkey bars, the playscape is aesthetically pleasing while also safe and functional.
On a sunny afternoon, take a drive to the 1500 block if Bethel St. between Oliver and Federal and see for yourself. An art student with a vision, a veteran non-profit, and a receptive community have started a revolution.
What’s the next step for Briony? Well, she hopes that the Oliver Playscape will inspire others around the city to build urban environments that will provide children with safe and exciting places to play. When she first started to explain her vision to me, smiling ear-to-ear, she said, “We all need a fun place to play, right?”
You got it, Briony. We sure do.
Check out an interview with Briony as well as her tumblr, playgroundism.tumblr.com, to stay up to date on the project.