Modern Model Units

I love photographing a living space that has been curated and staged by an professional interior designer. No, no one is living in this space, but yes, these spaces are curated with actual furniture and decor in a thoughtful and playful way. With so much thought put into detail and elements, the photos naturally look amazing and I can focus on making sure the lighting and composition and other elements also look fantastic. 

Prairie Village Shopping Center

Once a week, for the past four years, I have taken my son Emil to his weekly piano lesson in the basement of the Prairie Village Shopping Center. Formerly part of the Toon Shop, a beloved music shop that operated upstairs from 1948 until 2011, the underground practice rooms are now home to The Village Music Academy, whose instructors continue to teach a new generation of burgeoning musicians. The winding web of studios is curious and labyrinth-like, and while it’s an adequate spot to sit and read for 30 minutes, lately I’ve been opting instead to enjoy the evening temps in the open-air courtyard, watching the foot traffic, reading, or just chatting with my daughter during lesson time. 

The Prairie Village Shopping Center is a beautifully landscaped plaza with Colonial Revival architectural features and limestone accents, offering retail shopping and dining options to mostly affluent clientele. Sprinkled in are a handful of practical outposts including a hardware store, a grocery store, an urgent care facility, a gas station and a few banks amid a variety of hardworking, local small businesses. On the south end is the now-vacant Macy’s department store (formerly The Jones Store), with 128,000 square feet awaiting a new purpose. 

The creation of the PV Shopping Center is a familiar local tale that mirrors the history of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, sharing the same developer, J.C. Nichols. The land was originally inhabited by the Shawnee, Osage and Kansa Indian tribes, then purchased and occupied by Thomas Porter and family from 1858 until the 1940s when Nichols bought the land and began to build housing stock for soldiers and families settling in Kansas after WWII. 

Completed in 1948, the Prairie Village Shopping Center was strategically built between 69th and 71st Streets (north to south), and between Mission Rd and Tomahawk Rd (east to west). It catered to nearby residents and served as a commercial divider between the large, expensive homes and golf course (now Indian Hills Country Club) in Mission Hills, Kansas, and the post-war, smaller suburban starter-homes of Prairie Village, Kansas. 

While all of this history presents a variety of conversational topics and deeper discussions, my focus here is to document the Prairie Village Shopping Center in photos, as it looks today, in 2023. I have chosen not to highlight or promote specific businesses or individual shoppers and instead want to show “The Village” looking its finest in the golden hour of a late-summer weekday evening.  Props to the folks who maintain the beautiful (and large!) floral planter arrangements that line the sidewalks and keep up the general tidiness of the area. Remember to always support local and small businesses in your community! It wouldn’t be quite the community it is without them!

All photography © Jennifer Wetzel Photography, 2023



Aerial photograph, 1960: Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri Referring URL

City of Prairie Village, Kansas:

SAH Archipedia:

Spielplätze: The Beauty of German Playscape Structures

In 2018, Luke and I traveled with the kids to Germany. We visited friends, and re-visited old routes from previous trips and from when we lived there. Since our kids were 4 and 6 years old at the time, we naturally ended up hanging around city parks during our visit. It was interesting to observe German parents and their children in a natural family element, outside of tourist stops, traveling commutes and visitor accommodations. Ruby managed to make a new playmate, even with the English/German language barrier. Play is play for kids!

I was content to sit or wander around said parks, watching the kids play. Often, I had the option of a conveniently located imbiss nearby where I could buy a small bier or juice, snack or bratwurst for a nominal price. How lovely. How novel. 

I enjoyed sitting and observing the German engineering design and playful colors. Many of the structures were made from recycled materials, (i.e. old tires, tubes) but also new materials, organic and inorganic. The imagination and resourcefulness the designs invited was just… beautiful. Certain areas would challenge kids to climb higher, or balance in a specific way, or use ingenuity to get from one spot to the next. Basic fun and problem-solving, together. 

Another design element I appreciated was the occasional water feature. I challenge you to find a child that does not enjoy the magic of water, getting wet, or dare I say.. getting muddy. Whether an inches-deep water channel to float sticks on, a plank set across two land banks as a bridge, or a splash park to cool off in the heat…. KIDS LOVE WATER! It is our human nature to be calmed and grounded by this fascinating, life-dependent element.

So common in our modern world I hear the pleas of parents at the playground… “watch out!”,”don’t climb up there, you might fall!”, “don’t touch that, you’ll get dirty!”. Aren’t playgrounds the perfect spot to independently push our boundaries a bit?? Most all play scapes adhere to certain safety standards, and while we as parents innately watch out for our children, our children also need to learn the important lesson of knowing their own boundaries and capabilities. They need to learn how to trust themselves and be confident in their own steps, figuratively and physically. 

The Spielplatz areas that I have photographed here are all located in Germany, in Erfurt (Ega Park), Leipzig (Clara Zetkin Park), and Berlin (Zoologischer Garten). This is not, by any stretch, a comprehensive set. If any journalistic outlet with a travel budget would like to send me on a documentary tour of amazing Spielplatz spots in Germany, my bag is already packed. 

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