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18.08.2019 - Ausgabe: 4/2019

Adventurous play among the walls of a ruin


Children need room in which to play, settings that will inspire their imagination and where they can develop their motor and cognitive skills. The creation of a location such as this is a challenge that is not always easy to master, particularly when space is at a premium in the urban environment. The Swiss city of Basel has shown that it is possible to establish a playground on a site that is not the usual and ever more scarce green space. An exciting low level rope course has been installed in an abandoned structure that was in use some 150 years ago. The feature meets all safety requirements while combining the attractions of play among ruins with a state-of-the-art, colourful array of versatile climbing and balancing equipment.

The run-down building in the Hochstraße in Basel's Gundeldingen district once housed the offices of a construction company. "It was built in the period 1860 to 1975, during the development of the 'Gundeldingen quarter'," reports the local authority. When the construction company moved to larger premises, the site on the Hochstraße became the property of the local authority and part of the city's green belt. Today, the area around is densely populated; the old structure is surrounded by high-rise buildings, housing estates and tram lines.

The first adventure playground was constructed in the Hochstraße ruins in the 1980s; it was redesigned in 2005 on the basis of ideas contributed by the children in the neighbouring primary school and daycare centre. Two years ago, the playground equipment manufacturer Ernst Maier was commissioned to carry out a further redesign. A low level rope course concept was again implemented in a new guise. The equipment is suitable for use by children aged 5 years and older.

"We were concerned with ensuring a high level of safety but at the same time wanted to provide the maximum play value possible," explains the local authority. "In addition, considerable flexibility with regard to the design of the playground was necessary because of the restrictions of the ruin site and existing podiums." Detail planning was a major issue during the project, from measurement of the site and creation of blueprints through to production and installation of the equipment, as there are oblique-angled areas within the ruin site.

The manufacturer first prepared a freehand sketch that accommodated the various balancing and climbing elements within the walls and transformed the existing podiums into a versatile low level rope course. The graffiti present on the walls were even retained - something on which the Basel authority laid considerable emphasis. The colourful murals provided the theme for the colouration of the metal poles of the low level rope garden. "Inspired by the graffiti, we decided to give the inclined posts bright colours," clarifies Roland Koenig, the product designer in charge of the project at Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH. Seen from the road, they provide an eye-catching contrast with the grey walls and black protective gratings of the ruin.

Since completion of the rope course in 2017, this unusual playground has proved to be particularly popular with families with children in different age ranges. "The response to the low level rope course has been very positive," confirms the local authority. Progressing on the gangways between the existing podiums and platforms and a newly installed three-cornered podium provides challenges in various difficulty levels. For younger children, there are balancing beams and climbing poles while gangways in the form of suspension plate bridges, Manila rope bridges and balancing elements with five steps at different levels are intended to train the motor skills of older children. Climbing nets add to the exercise options inside the ruin.

A particular highlight is the access route into the ruin structure. On one side of the former office building there is an arched ramp at a height of some 186 cm through which it is possible to enter the ruin through a doorway. A tube slide at the same height brings children outside again. On the other side of the building, the rope course can be accessed from the ground level.

This attraction in Basel's Hochstraße demonstrates that green spaces are not always required to provide room for children to play. With ingenuity and conviction that realisation is feasible, even an old and run-down structure - undoubtedly already popular among children as a place to play in an area where playgrounds are in short supply – can provide the basis for a contemporary playground that complies with stringent safety requirements but offers sufficient scope for imagination, adventure and exercise.

Image: Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH




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