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19.02.2016 - Ausgabe: 1/2016

Irrland: the amusement park for the whole family


The couple Johannes and Josefine Winkels-Tebarzt-van Elsts began the conversion of their farm to an adventure park when they first created a maize labyrinth in 1999 in order to generate supplementary income. Since then, their main business has been running the now extensive amusement park. The park has been continuously developed: attractions such as a petting zoo, pony riding and play equipment have been added to the site that now covers an area of 300,000 m². The park has been mainly designed to appeal to families with children under the age of 12 years. The owners have deliberately avoided installing lavish fairground rides and have concentrated on providing traditional features and family- and child-friendly attractions. This strategy seems to work ‒ the park has more than 1 million visitors annually and is among the most popular leisure destinations in the Lower Rhine region.

Dedicated areas have been remodelled to accommodate the park's special themes for 2015: 'Bread and Circuses' and 'On the trail of the Romans'. The park operators decided to commission the agency Tapper & Hollmann and the play equipment manufacturer Berliner Seilfabrik to realise the concepts.

"We still have things today that serve the same purpose as the chariot racing, gladiator combats and grain dole in Ancient Rome. Our current political masters are able to use the distraction provided by TV and the media to gratify the needs of the general public and keep them amused. But Irrland is entirely different. We enable visitors to escape from the everyday completely without screens and complex gadgets, to rediscover the pleasures of active adventure and the invigorating effects of fresh air, to come into actual contact with a range of various animals and find inspiration in colourful flowers and plants," explains owner Josi Winkels-Tebartz-van Elst on the park's website www.irrland.de. She describes the philosophy behind the park and its play areas as follows: "At Irrland, you can recapture what it is really like to be a child and play freely without being told how to play. And we are staying true to this philosophy after 17 years of running Irrland. Active play, learning and letting off steam, high recreational value combined with a unique level of family-orientation ‒ and we can offer all this at a price that does not require visitors to dig deeply into their wallets. Irrland is a dynamic undertaking and has now become 'Europe's largest farm adventure oasis'. Our 300,000 m² site surrounded by palm trees is a green oasis that has a Mediterranean feel. There are more than 1000 seating groups that provide protection against sun or rain while we also provide barbecue grills that are free to use and invite visitors to relax and enjoy themselves. A visit to Irrland is fun whatever the weather! On a total area of 8000 m², there are play and activity barns, an indoor climbing world, a play barn for toddlers and the largest conservatory in the Lower Rhine region, meaning that Irrland is an all-weather attraction."

The adventure oasis already has experience of the values of rope play equipment in the form of an element installed by the company TriPoli. The play value and capacity of an external framework structure supporting an internal rope network arrangement are optimal and surpass those of standard playground equipment.

The architects and landscape designers of Berliner Seilfabrik had an area of 15 x 30 metres at their disposal (including safety clearance space) while the theme they were required to use ("Ancient Rome") was predefined. As the amusement park operators knew exactly what they wanted and the personnel of the Seilfabrik's creative centre had the necessary skills, it was possible to work without having to employ external designers and thus keep the communication pathways short. Anyone who is in any way familiar with the world depicted in the Asterix comic books will recognise the source of inspiration. Projecting above a defensive palisade are two towers in the style of Roman military architecture. In this case, Berliner Seilfabrik has used two of its standard rope network structures to create an innovative effect. In the upper sections, the network has been replaced by horizontal lattices while the balustrades and the roofs have been covered by high quality HDPE plastic panels that conform to the concept. It is possible to get from one to the other tower without touching the ground by negotiating a suspension bridge at a height of 3.6 metres. In order to comply with safety requirements, this is covered by a finely woven steel mesh to prevent users getting out and climbing on the external sides of the bridge. Additional play fun is provided by a jungle bridge, a rubber belt ramp, a hammock, climbing nets and a swinging device known as the 'Monkey Jibe'. There is thus something for all children in the specified age group under 12 years and the large play area can provide amusement for everyone.

There are many picnic and barbecue areas scattered across the whole of the Irrland site and guests are encouraged to bring their own food and drink with them.


In conclusion...

When working with a private investor, such as the Irrland amusement park, there is a greater chance of completing a project successfully if the communication pathways are kept short. The park benefited from the design skills of an experienced company represented on-site by a competent local partner. The play equipment manufacturer had the advantages associated with short decision-making channels and the awareness on the part of the client of the value of high quality installations that would provide visitors to the park with an attraction they can enjoy over the long term.


Image: Berliner Seilfabrik

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