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Playground Spreewaldreich Lübbenau / Spreewald
By Astrid Subatzus (Subatzus & Bringmann GbR, Büro für Baumbegutachtung und Landschaftsarchitektur)
In 2016 the city of Lübbenau/Spreewald decided to build a thematic playground in the old town of Lübbenau in the heart of the Spreewald.
To start with an ideas contest regarding a thematic playground in the green belt area of the old town had been launched. The ideas to be developed for this thematic playground should take into account the historic old town, the biosphere reserve, the water landscape and the region's status as state-approved health resort.
Of the three competition entries submitted the city administration and the citizens found the design developed and submitted by the company Subatzus & Bringmann GbR the most convincing idea. Its title "Spreewaldreich" (Spreewald realm) promises a variety of Spreewald-typical features reflected in the playground design concept.
Above all, it includes climbable haystacks, typical Spreewald log houses and long fish traps for climbing, an underwater world with many fish, seat pedestals in the form of boats or steles with the Spreewald's rich legend world written down on them.
The ideas for the design of the playground were based on the water-rich landscape embedding the city of Lübbenau. The Spreewald itself with all its special features is the shaping theme. It is rich in water, forests, meadows, animals and traditions - indeed a real Spreewald realm.
In addition to its play function, the playground is also meant to fulfil other tasks, such as:
- Presentation of the Sorbian culture and mythology
- Documentation of the way of life and work of the Spreewald people
- Showing the near-natural landscape, which is characterised by numerous watercourses
- Meeting place for all generations by providing appropriate offers.
The planning area of this future thematic playground was located at the gates of Lübbenau's historic old town between the railway station and the market place. The playground can be reached via the immediately adjacent Poststraße, from where one can enjoy panoramic views over the entire playground area.
The main entrance area is located between the already existing parking lot and the big city moat. The existing unpaved path in this area was to be fixed with paving stones to become a barrier-free access way. About 40 metres away from Poststraße, the main access road expands to a kind of square. Apart from functioning as a crossroads, this place serves as a meeting point, provides information about the playground and offers possibilities to stay and relax. From there, visitors can reach both the small northern and the large southern play area. Due to the fact that different types of traffic merge in this crossing area, traffic-calming measures were deemed necessary. Thus, both in front of and behind the intersection area the original pavement surfaces have been changed from smooth to rough surfaces. Furthermore a kind of zebra crossing with curved, undulating stripes has been installed in this area to increase the attention of all road users.
The Spreewald-typical element of water has been integrated in the entrance area at the great moat by enlarging it at two points. Thus the moat is opened up and made come alive for the public. A widening of it is designed as a Kneipp facility for water treading. Two flights of steps in the embankment lead to the level of the moat where an 8.50-metre-long handrail has been firmly anchored. A second moat widening to the east provides an exciting and challenging opportunity to reach the other bank of the great moat. A path built from boulders as stepping stones leads through the moat. In order to minimise the risk of accidents the distance between the bottom of the moat and the upper edge of the boulders is less than 30 cm and usually the moat's water level is below 20 cm. If the water level is higher, the boulders are inundated and no longer accessible. Playing at the waterside is an important experience for children. A path branches off from the crossing area to the northern play area. A slightly curved wooden bridge is under planning which will lead over the moat and connect the existing play facilities with the newly planned equipment. The existing play devices include a climbing house with a slide, a seating group, a wobble plate, a wobble duck and the so-called "cucumber"- play object. The wooden playground equipment is made of robinia wood which was upgraded and repaired in the course of the project implementation. Furthermore a path connection has been installed from the bridge to the existing paths with the original materiality entirely adhered to (row of granite paving stones and crushed gravel surface).
The large southern play area has been completely fenced in and is regularly locked up in the evenings to reduce vandalism and undesirable night-time visits. The main entrance area is equipped with a sliding gate of 5-metre passage width. A second 1.5-metre wide gate is located south of the parking lot. The entire play area is defined by flow-like paths running through the open meadow spaces. From the circular path, all play facilities are accessible barrier-free. The width of the path is 1.5 metres. In addition to its access function, the circular path can also be used as scooter or jogging track. The pavement is made of sand and beige-coloured asphalt, so that people with prams, wheeled walkers or scooters will find optimum riding conditions. Along the western path there is an area with several playgrounds extending from north to south which caters for all age groups and their different play requirements.
The 0 to 3-year olds can experience an underwater world just south of the sliding gate. The rich variety of fish species found in the region led to the idea of reflecting this in the game presentation. An extensive sand game area (approx. 100 square metres) with fish-shaped baking tables and a small water feature is available for the youngest visitors. The elements water and sand are meant to stimulate the senses and encourage creativity. The drinking water connection for the water feature is provided by the existing connection in the parking lot. Clearly separated from the sand play area, a big carp swing as well as fish boxes as they were once used at every Spreewald farmstead, are here offered to the very young visitors and invite them to crawling through and climbing up.
Children can test their skills on the climbing tadpoles. Several nodding fish create a shoal of sticklebacks and round off the movement offerings for small children.
In the net and bow net paradise, the journey continues towards the shore. The fish traps are still in and the boats are already on the water. The 4 to 12-year olds can bring their fish and other "treasures" caught in the fish traps up to the unique Spreewald-typical log houses on stilts. To do this, skills and courage are necessary. In addition, the children’s motor skills are promoted. The fun factor has also been considered because two children may slide together out of the house on a wide slide. An alder forest made of long wooden posts, which is equipped with various artificially created obstacles, motivates the children to climb up to the low-rope obstacle course, which means a challenge for the children's general coordination skills. In addition there are several swings next to each other which invite the children to a swinging contest.
In the so-called "Blick ins Land" (look into the country) play area the children are located - in the most literal sense - on dry land. Haystacks are considered a typical Spreewald symbol, probably because they are real eye-catchers due to their height which makes them look particularly prominent in the midst of the meadow landscapes. They are a symbol of hard work done and initially have the pleasant scent of fresh hay. The haystacks of up to 3 meters height are situated in the fall- protection sand and invite to play. They are made of rough concrete, similar to artificial climbing rocks, and invite the older children from 10 years up to climb onto them. This requires physical fitness as well as dexterity and endurance. The top of the haystacks can be climbed by using climbing holds or ropes. When reaching the top, the users are rewarded with good views or a rope connection to the next haystack. Individual haystack frames are set up on the nearby meadow. They serve as platform or stage, and unbattened as seat beams or balancing beams or even, on the occasion of the harvest festival, for the joint creation of an original and typical Spreewald hayloft after mowing the meadows. The playground equipment was manufactured by the Langenlipsdorf-based company SIK-Holz.
Welcome to the Fitness Island
Those who want to do something for their physical well-being will be especially attracted by the Fitness Island. Rowing machines, kayak training devices and sit-up benches invite the visitors to prepare for the next paddle tour. The Calisthenics facility, a functional and multi-purpose weight training station, enables its users to do muscle-emphasizing sports characterised by simple training methods and full physical involvement. In addition to pull-up bars (horizontal bars) and parallel bars, horizontal and vertical ladders as well as variations thereof can be found at this place. Wood chips were used as fall protection material to get a relatively even surface and to compensate the compaction which is normally achieved when using sand.
On the Sagenplatz in the east of the playground the most important legends of the region are written down on steles and can be read or even read aloud to others. Thus, seating facilities are provided to invite the visitors to sit down and listen. The idea is to pass the old legends on to the next generation. Hence this place could also be called a multi-generational playground. It is a place where people listen to each other.
On a meadow area between the car park and the weir paradise there are three little playhouses. The Spreewald-typical houses with the snake heads fastened to the gables which should protect the people from misfortune, are converted into a boat factory, an oil mill and a gherkin sales stand. They enable the children to slip into the role of a Spreewald woman and sell, for instance, the typical Spreewald gherkins.
The special equipment includes seat platforms in the form of a barge, similar to the Spreewald- typical rowing boats. Furthermore the flower pattern of the traditional Sorbian skirts should be present for the visitors throughout the entire area during their whole stay. The flower motif has thus been etched in metal and inserted in lath width onto the seating area. Furthermore it appears on the writing plates of the Sagenplatz.
The southern part of the playground is an extensive area solely intended for nature observation and exploration. The existing fruit trees were supplemented in the south by a snack hedge which invites the visitors to try and get to know the taste of wild fruit. The wildflower meadows can be used for guided herb tours and are true paradises for insects, the fact of which encourages the visitors to observe them. The dove tower located on the newly planned Legendary Site has now been moved to the southern area.
The majority of the existing tree population has been preserved and supplemented by further large shrubs, which after some time will provide shade on hot summer days. Thus the large play area will be provided with additional space. Undulating planting areas of shrubs and planting strips of perennials and grasses underline the design of the water-rich Spreewald area. All remaining areas have been designed as freely playable lawns and meadows.
The realisation of this project enables both young and old to immerse in Spreewald life. Mayor Helmut Wenzel is very happy about the result. "We have succeeded in creating a truly unique Spreewald realm for children of different age groups in Lübbenau's old town and at the same time managed to increase the attractiveness of this place for families. Right from the beginning it was important for the municipality to build a playground which focuses on the historical old town, the biosphere reserve, the water landscape and the region's status as state-approved health resort.
We believe that these goals have been fully achieved and that the playground fits very well into the cityscape. It will indeed create enthusiasm among all its visitors".