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Obstacle course: live out something a bit different

By Pablo Giese, Team Proelan


The sport, parkour, is defined as “efficient, fast and elegant movement through mostly urban areas without the support of aids”. It is the athlete’s (also referred to as “traceur” in technical terms) goal, within the bounds of his or her abilities, to use the structural or natural surroundings as creatively and interactively as possible. In the process, urban structures are interpreted as obstacles that can be used. You take paths others don't – even in Herne.

In June 2015, the independent town, Herne, in North Rhine-Westphalia, finalised and reopened a comprehensive transformation of the green corridor “Hölkeskampring” for inhabitants and citizens.

Herne was one of the major mining towns in the Ruhr region and, consequently, over the past decades had to tackle enormous structural and urban development challenges in the course of its structural changes. As a consequence of a number of minor and major spatial development measures, Herne managed to master the balancing act of urbanity and near-natural flair. Buildings such as the Akademie Mont-Cenis in the Sodingen district and the surrounding area are good examples of this: On the surfaces of a former colliery, a high-specification ‒ in technical terms ‒ and, in those days ‒ from an ecological viewpoint ‒ a ground-breaking construction project, was set up. The result was an attractive local recreation area with important functions for identity-creating approaches (viewing mounts overlooking the neighbourhood, community centre and district library integrated into the Akademie).  There was success in bridging the gap between the past with the present, which is contemporary and directive, without neglecting the “Old” historical identity and charm.

Similarly, with the transformation of the green corridor, “Hölkeskampring”, it can be said that a successful synthesis has been achieved with stock which was in need of upgrading and newly created spaces have been made.   


Urban Development Concept   

In 2011, the Ruhr district town, with about 154,000 inhabitants, decided on an urban development concept for the central Herne district and the neighbouring districts and neighbourhoods which included, among others, comprehensive structural alterations in the area of the Hölkeskampring.

The green corridor, “Hölkeskampring”, was altered to its current form during the 1950s and 1960s. As an easterly-running ring, it connects the town centre to the “central”, “southern” and “Sodingen“ districts and opens them up to the neighbouring green areas to the east. Consequently, the approx. 40 metres-wide grassy strip-area fulfils an important function in the local recreation and the traffic-free development of the southern and eastern districts of the town.  

Over the decades, it was established that this area indeed continued to fulfil important functions for (dog) walkers and cyclists in connecting adjoining districts and open spaces. However, as a contemporary area it was deficient in terms of the quality of its character and as a place for recreation. Furthermore, in the framework of the urban development concept, a comprehensive improvement of the availability of free and open spaces was decided upon in order to stimulate this valuable space through visitors who use it and the different groups of people staying there.    

The concrete result of these rough-seeming formulated objectives was a comprehensive restoration of the surfaces on a stretch of about 1,000 metres. These should be redesigned and incorporated harmonically into the surrounding, natural space. Moreover, games and sports points should be created for all age groups.  


The Hölkeskampring today

As part of the opening event on 15/06/2015, the citizens of Herne were presented with a Hölkeskampring which has a pleasantly curved footpath and a wide, paved cycle path. Time and time again, emerging rocks and boulders represent important design elements that were arranged partly geometrically and appear to be randomly scattered in other places. Thanks to the skilful, forward planning of the path, besides the transfer spaces, there are high-quality, welcoming spots which invite you to pass the time peacefully. 

The real highlight in terms of the design lies with the conception of the local play and sports areas which were created there. At three selectively created partial surfaces, the new Hölkeskampring offers play and sports surfaces for children, teenagers and adults on a total of about 800 m². Furthermore, the entire route is periodically dotted with individual pieces of outdoor fitness equipment that invite to short or prolonged sporting endeavours. 


Three Play and Sports Areas   

In the western area, a classic play point for children up to the age of six was implemented. It is concealed by a hedge and offers a playhouse with a chute as well as various sand play functions.

So that children over six also get their money’s worth, a theme playground entitled “Piratennest” (Pirates’ Nest) was created in the eastern area on an expansive terrain.

At this location a varied topographical route ‒ reminiscent of waves and largely containing smooth cast fall protection ‒ was created. Furthermore, in order to highlight the impression of maritime surroundings, the rubber granulate was given colour. Diversely-shaped playhouses and objects in the style of boats invite you to play on all of the terrain. Climbing and hanging are the key focal points here in terms of play, and satisfy the urge to exercise, particularly of older children. The whole facility is rounded off nicely with a long zip line.

With the parkour equipment which has been opened at the Hölkeskampring, the town of Herne has recognised the needs of teenagers and deals with a topic on which much importance is placed in their living world. This is the first time here that the technical planning office, Proelan, and the manufacturer, X-Move, have realised a project that was not yet realised in any other comparable shape or form. In accordance with the requirements for all redesigned play and sports points, a concept was realised which fulfilled all expectations of a full-fledged parkour park, thanks to modelling of the terrain topography as well as the use of natural materials, and was integrated homogeneously into the surroundings.   


The Parkour Facilities

The “Freeland 5” unit is divided into three different sections which cover up the different focal points and yet still follow a homogeneous and consistent master plan.

At one side, there is a spot-shaped area with high walls, rod constructions, a bevelled wall, breakthrough situation, freestanding block and conquest wall as well as ground-level elements. The special features of this area are the acidified, concrete surfaces which convey a corresponding, visual impression with good grip properties as well as an arrangement of massive square section brackets for precision leaps/jumps.    

On the other edge of the park, there is a green mount with a gigantic boulder and other large stones as well as different arrangements made from Robinia tree trunks. Here parkour training is possible in near-natural surroundings. Externally, a gravel pit is attached to the mount to enable more technically ambitious jumps to be attempted.

The connecting middle section between both areas forms the “eye”; a round surface made from firm rubber granulate. This area can be viewed as the transfer space for the parkour runners. In addition, it also represents a place which connects the functions of “recreation” and “training-related modern forms of sport and exercise”. This is where participants from the street-workout / callisthenics disciplines can find a wall with dip bars and tricking athletes can use the specific properties of the rubber granulate in this area for the sport. (Tricking is a kind of sport where the surrounding architecture and the interaction with this is pushed completely to the background.  

Roughly speaking, tricking can be understood as a synthesis of elements of gymnastics/artistry as well as different martial arts.)  


Parkour facilities and structural integration

The fact that modern concepts for parkour parks, in various surroundings, allow the homogenous integration with high quality design as evidenced by another project ‒ maximum urban in this instance ‒ in Leipzig. The town of Leipzig built a parkour park in the district of Schönefeld East. The surrounding area there is characterised by a 1970s-style multi-storey construction.

In order to bridge the gap between the old and new, without neglecting the potential charm of the structures in need of renewal, the design of the park is integrated seamlessly into the available surroundings. Constructions made from concrete and steel, clearly-defined objects and room edges as well as the artistic design of the surfaces with graffiti of urban, sporty scenes include the surrounding atmosphere and show old shapes under a new guise.    


Photo: Proelan

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