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18.08.2019 - Ausgabe: 4/2019

Ride a rocket to the Milky Way: “Distant Galaxies” in Berlin’s Wedding neighbourhood


“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” These thrilling introductory words marked the beginning of every episode of one of the most legendary television series of all time. It is no less thrilling, however, when the voyage to distant galaxies becomes the motto of a playground redevelopment, right in the middle of Berlin’s Wedding neighbourhood on a vacant lot.

Despite the growing demand for urban building plots, not every vacant lot is automatically suitable for building development or infill development. It is rather also a matter of preserving and promoting the quality of urban planning and development. While on the one hand the preservation of open spaces such as parks or green spaces is guaranteed, on the other hand the building and land use can help to strengthen existing structures and enhance the cityscape or townscape. In the present case, at least, the aim was to breathe new life into an old, neglected and therefore hardly used playground.

Playgrounds are actually by-products of the industrialized city of the 20th century; in the countryside or in villages they were not really needed. Especially in Berlin Wedding, a traditional working-class neighbourhood, housing and living conditions have always been somewhat more cramped. It was only the confined living conditions and the fact that many working-class children were left unattended during the day that made it necessary to have retreats.

The fact that playgrounds were now built shows that children have increasingly been deprived of their actual play areas, because children have the gift of turning every environment into a play environment.   

The planners of the Berlin landscape architecture firm Dagmar Gast have combined their concept with the design theme of “Distant Galaxies”. Adjacent day-care centres were involved in the planning process. In line with the children’s wishes, the centrepiece of the new playground was to be a rocket, which is sure to take little astronauts to the outer reaches of the Milky Way. The existing division of the area, for example into paved areas and a sand play area, had to be preserved. Thus, the spatial division was fixed and formed the basis for the playground upgrade.

The equipment of the old, dilapidated playground was to be discarded, except for the attached slide of the former climbing frame combination. Furthermore, the children had expressed their wish for a bench/ table combination related to the theme (in the form of a space capsule) as well as a “Milky Way” wooden footbridge, which connects everything. However, just as the real Milky Way, this footbridge should not simply be a flat surface. In the end, the curvature of space was taken into account in the form of slight slopes and waves.

The merry go round playground designers and builders took up the concept and finally interpreted and implemented it in an imaginative manner and with great attention to detail, including the rocket, but also meteorites, a small UFO and even an extraterrestrial playmate. This unique setting spreads positivity and good vibes, motivates children to play and helps to build a sense of identity within the neighbourhood. Children’s play thus becomes conspicuous and a distinctive part of the cityscape thanks to the loving presentation of the theme and the play equipment.

In the past, such places would simply have been equipped with a slide, a swing and other play equipment, which was literally standard then. The introduction of the “crooked wood” provided for individual, creative and, wherever sensible and reasonable, thematic playground design, which was first ridiculed, but which is now increasingly being implemented.

A thematic concept can be the central theme or the guiding idea, but should at the same time still be open to the users’ and viewers’ imagination. A ready-made play template for “just the one theme” would quickly become boring.

The galaxy playground, however, does not fit into any pattern. As confined as the space may be, this small playground gives the impression of vastness. You can even get lost in this place, even though you are constantly crossing your own path. It is a place that drives and moves you and makes you change your view, if only because of the winding paths. Nothing seems to be static here, everything keeps changing and urges you to change and move yourself.


Photo: merry go round oHG


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