PS 234 Independence School Play Yard | New York, USA | Kan Landscape Design


In the fall of 2014, KaN Landscape designed a new schoolyard for PS 234, located in historic TriBeCa in lower Manhattan. The school, which accommodates children from kindergarten through 5th grade, was in need of a new play yard with a diversity of sports opportunities and play experiences for all ages.

The designers worked in close collaboration with the school community to ensure that the yard design reflects their philosophy. Powerhouse educational institution, P.S. 234, ‘Independence School’ is committed to the idea of students working together in an interactive setting, and being viewed as individuals with specific strengths, needs, and learning styles.


PS 234’s powerful community of high-spirited leaders; the school principal, PTA, teachers, and school custodian, with their strong experience and knowledge of the students, were closely involved during the whole design process.

The school team sought a highly functional but playful concept that would delineate different sport games and play activities.

The design evolved around the careful observation of the children’s use of the space, as KaN spent many recesses carefully recording play habits and interviewing the children for their input and visions, while resisting the request for a zip line the length of the field!


The designer’s intention was to integrate and interpret the given program, (basketball, track, baseball, and games such as four squares, hopscotch, scully etc.), into a dynamic and playful layout while revealing the strong architectural identity of the building.

KaN has had enormous fun imagining play ideas for this project, not all of which found their way into the final plan. They presented eight different schemes, some deriving directly from the figurative maritime and waterfront imagery strongly featured in the architecture.


The details of brick arches, curved corners, industrial windows, and cylindrical turret designed by Dattner Architects as well as the decorative fence displaying silhouettes of ships by Donna Dennis were strong features the designers were resolute to respect and even emulate.

The chosen nonfigurative option captures and thoughtfully inserts some of the building features, such as the porthole windows, which land in the yard to create the base for a merry-go-round and other spontaneous team play.


It was delightful to see the children jump over, follow, hide in, gather within the lines, shapes and functions we created, and astonishing  to witness their imaginative and unexpected use of these same features. We were as excited in anticipation of the first school day as they were!

One of the goals of redesigning the schoolyard was to give children designated play areas while still keeping the original architect’s philosophy of free play in mind for the new design.   KaN Landscape Design managed to meet both criteria with their complex yet free flowing design.   The designers worked closely with school staff and students, incorporating the input of both the adults and kids into their drawings.  Their commitment to detail, to working collaboratively with the client and to researching the materials to be used was outstanding.  But most importantly our students love the new yard!  There are so many wonderful, whimsical paths for them to follow, corners to have quiet time in as well as a baseball diamond, basketball courts and a running track, all flowing together seamlessly. – Lisa Ripperger, School Principal


PS 234 Independence School Play Yard | New York, USA | Kan Landscape Design

Images & Text | Kan Landscape Design

About Damian Holmes 3313 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at