Happily, it seems that in recent years our society has come to realise the importance of exercise when regard to promoting health and well-being. In view of this growing...
Climbing in the city - planning options
Climbing has been a very popular sport for many years and, thanks to the construction of climbing halls and forests, can now also be practiced outside of mountain areas by city dwellers. Nevertheless, many climbing enthusiasts are attracted by the prospect of fresh air despite the existence of such facilities in urban settings. This is the reason for the emergence several years ago of the "buildering" movement, which has popularised climbing on buildings and constructions in the urban environment. And during this process the term "climbing in the city" has been taken quite literally. Walls, house facades, bridges, cranes, rooftops – anything could be an attraction for those bitten by the climbing bug.
And naturally the issues of legality, safety and risk arise almost automatically. On the one hand, there are several spots where climbing is even allowed and corresponding safety measures, such as the installation of secure rings on buildings, have been taken, while the walls of some houses feature climbing holds which can be used to scale them. For a bona fide boulderer, a climber without a harness or rope, however, such facilities don't represent a challenge. For many such enthusiasts risk is actively sought out, in particular if they can subsequently draw attention to their exploits on social media with corresponding photos or videos. The risk that inexperienced copy-cats may be seduced into undertaking similarly dangerous activities is not usually taken into account. But the obstacle to be overcome doesn't have to be a skyscraper - for a boulderer the technical challenge tends to matter more than height. Incidentally, there is no explicit legal ban on climbing facades or buildings, and climbers only risk committing such offences as breaching the peace or causing a public nuisance.
Now when planning buildings, bridges or walls the issue of "climbability" is a minor consideration. Even if there are proven climbing solutions for soundproof walls, for example. While the planner will always struggle to deal with the risk-seeking boulderer, however, there are certainly solutions for anyone who wishes to climb outside that can be incorporated into the planning of play and leisure areas.
On many playgrounds, for instance, there are now small climbing walls or cubes on which children can practice climbing techniques close to the ground without additional safety measures. A much greater challenge is posed by climbing rocks. Artificial rocks designed to accommodate all ages are great fun to climb and can usually easily be incorporated into the design of a facility. Naturally, safety requirements with regard to fall protection and materials are a major consideration. This is why it is difficult to install rocks more than three metres in height. While there are climbing rocks up to 20 metres high, these can only be climbed with a safety rope.
For anyone in search of a greater challenge, there are a number of facilities, usually run by climbing clubs, where it is possible to climb on old buildings and structures under the supervision of safety experts. Abandoned industrial facilities, where it is often possible to climb an old factory chimney or warehouse roof, make particularly good venues. For urban planners, however, it is hard to replicate such sites.
But it is clear that there ways of providing simple climbing opportunities for children and adults in the city. For beginners and experienced climbers these are great installations for practicing. But it is debatable whether such facilities deter others from "buildering" since for many, as with parkour, the conventional layout of the city is the biggest attraction and planned facilities cannot offer as much originality. Meanwhile, for the experienced climber there's only one place to head for a challenge: into the mountains, where there are real rocks to climb on!
Photo: X-Move GmbH