Have You Been to The Standard, High Line’s Grown-Up Playground Yet?

Sofia Elias with her Playing to Play installation at The Standard, High Line. Photography by Sean Davidson. All images courtesy of The Standard.

Utilitarian, colors always primary, features stock and standard: the playgrounds of New York fulfill their function, but, if being honest, maybe aren’t all that fun. Sofia Elias is doing something about that. With her interactive installation, Playing to Play, in The Standard, High Line’s front yard, Elias converts a stretch of sidewalk into a public good.

Hailing from Mexico City, the multifaceted artist has made a career out of provoking established architectural dictums, outfitting run-of-the-mill structures with mechanisms for interaction. "The research and sculptural elements I’ve been studying come to a proposal where play has no specific agenda, is not functional and has no clear or known norms," says Elias. The structure, which was unveiled May 5, was put to the test yesterday with the opening of the hotel’s La Plaz, a taqueria and bar serving drinks and dishes curbside all summer long. Guests could be seen hanging from the suspended rings and tipping back in the loveseat swing. "Users' actions are what determine the use and purpose of the objects and space, rather than vice-versa," she adds. 

With Playing to Play, the artist expands upon concepts established previously in her thesis presentation, “Jugando a Jugar,” which delved into the concept of play in children's spaces. Having previously set up playgrounds in the states of Tabasco and Quintana Roo, Mexico, Elias continues her project with an intervention that invites users to engage with objects void of a predetermined function. "The designs in this project do not seek to newly formalize playground design, but rather to mix multiple possibilities among play objects that already exist in collective culture," she notes. These structures encourage individuals to take ownership of their surroundings through unencumbered experimentation.

The palpable sense of childlike wonder paired well with the dishes circulating the space from local hotspot Taqueria Ramírez, as well as the ice-cold beers and rare sunny weather. In the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, fashion commentator Anthony Urbano, style blogger Justin Livingston, photographer Kira MacLean, and more could be spotted exploring the space.

In addition to her installation, Elias's jewelry brand, Blobb, will be showcased at The Shop at The Standard, High Line. Founded by Elias in 2019 as a means of reconnecting with the tactile world after years spent in the realm of digital design, Blobb offers unique, handmade pieces that reflect Elias's playful aesthetic and reverence for imperfection. No matter installation or wearable art, Elias is always seeking joyful experimentation: "My designs come out of my need to play, experiment with material, and create with my own hands." 

Through her innovative approach to her own practice and the design of public spaces, Elias invigorates audiences and spurs them to find their own joy in creative expression. Finally, a “playground” worth the visit.