Client: Normal School District
Location: Colene Hoose Elementary School
600 Grandview, Normal, Illinois 61761
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Size: 642 square feet
Completion date: 2022/2023
Renowned natural playgrounds Landscape Architect Helle Nebelong contacted me via Facebook, and asked only, “Can you do Illinois?”
“Yes,” I said.
The result is a 642 square foot LithoMosaic Rainbow River with the largest natural playground in the USA. Privately funded by billionaire Charlie Jobson, who grew up in the neighborhood, he conceived of and gifted $5 million for this 19 acre park “that looks like a plateful of cookies,” to honor his parents and the community.
A natural playground is an adventure playground. It's kid and climate and environmentally sensitive - so no plastic or resins or toxins - but lots of trees and stumps and logs and boulders and aesthetics - all arranged with consideration for maximum fun, exercise and exploration. While our work is finished, the full park will not open until 2023.
Helle’s plan for our part was for the students to fulfill the assignment, “If I was a fish I would look like this.” We received over 400 drawings, of which about half we enlarged by hand and translated into glass, shells, stone and porcelain tile, for her amoeba-shaped Rainbow River. It is gorgeous and a blast and the first LithoMosaic in Illinois.
Philanthropist - Charlie Jobson USA
Concept and Landscape Architect - Helle Nebelong Denmark General Contractor - Adam Bienstock, Bienstock Natural Playgrounds Canada
Fabrication - Brailsford Public Art with Robin Brailsford as Lead USA
Installation - TB Penick USA