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Creating values that are beneficial for humans and the environment
By Jens Henningsen (Eva Zerjatke · Knut Honsell · Jens Henningsen
Henningsen Landschaftsarchitekten PartG mbB)
Planned in consultation with pupils - the Bötzow primary school
The 350 pupils of the Bötzow primary school in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg celebrated the opening of their redesigned school playground in September 2019 with a big party. No wonder, as they had had to put up with a previous two years of inconvenience attributable to its construction, although this meant they were able to watch as it took shape. A boring, covered-surface playground offering few opportunities for play and recreation had been converted into a generously proportioned, versatile open space with a diversity of attractive play and sport options.
The consultation process
Before the planning of the new site commenced, there was an extensive consultation process involving pupils and teachers. During various lessons, the pupils were asked to express wishes and ideas for the design and various functions of the site, which were collected prior to the actual consultation sessions. These formed the creative basis for the subsequent workshops, presentations and project days. During these the pupils, representatives of the teaching staff, the administration and the planning office together developed the various ideas, voted on them and put them into realisable forms.
The various shapes of the freely formed spaces of the playground with their differently coloured surfacings were used to generate a deliberate contrast with the strict orthogonal stylistic idiom that characterises the school building, its gymnasium and sports field. These shapes that appear rather like dabs of paint are also on different elevations and serve various functions. They are randomly scattered across the generously sized, paved playground. Plantings of individual trees of various species underline the freely formed areas, help structure the open space and provide shade. A green border of robust shrubs surrounds and complements the paved playground.
Play and sport facilities
There are various play, sport and learning islands distributed throughout the playground covered with light-coloured paving. These are at ground level, raised above it or sunk below it, providing interesting contrasts in terms of materials and colours employed.
At the rear of the playground is an extensive, interconnected play zone with wood chip surfacing. Here there are a large climbing pyramid with slide, support with multiple swings, a covered area that can serve as an outdoor classroom and other smaller pieces of play equipment and hammocks. The neighbouring plant bed with native shrubs is covered with mulch and can also be used for play.
For use in sports lessons and during breaks, a multipurpose sports pitch that is sunk some 45 cm below ground level has been installed to the south west of the playground. It is possible to play football, handball, basketball and volleyball on the red plastic surfacing here. The fact that this area is recessed below ground level makes it less obtrusive in the playground as a whole. In addition, the surrounding supportive walls also function as a protective ring and made it possible to reduce the height of the safety fencing.
A 50 m track with integrated long jump pit is made of asphalt coloured to match that of the concrete paving of the rest of the playground. An already existing, freely formed sand play area provided the long jump pit.
Materials and planting
Concrete and natural paving in combination; paving made of coloured concrete and ashlar edging together with edging made of sandstone and granite blocks act in concert with the colourful play equipment to provide a diverse yet harmonious material concept. The result is an unobtrusive, multicoloured playground in the heart of Prenzlauer Berg, one of Berlin's most densely populated districts.
High-growing shrubs overshadowed by trees at the edge of the site and lower-growing shrubs in beds on the playground and in front of the buildings generate a green framework and differentiate the various open spaces. New trees have been planted in beds and among the paved areas to provide shade and pleasant places to linger and play. Selected were climate-compatible plant species appropriate to the site that produce a variety of blooms, leaf forms and colours.
Playing under trees:
Zukunft Stadtgrün - new pedestrian pathway with play and sport facilities
The new pathway in the Bambachstrasse with its various play and sport facilities was completed in just 12 months. The inauguration of this public open space was marked by a celebration attended by children from the day nurseries in the vicinity and representatives of the various administrative bodies involved. The project was financed by resources provided through the federal government's 'Zukunft Stadtgrün' programme designed to promote urban greening in order to renovate and link publicly accessible green and open spaces.
The aim was to provide the local area with a new and important but to date only informally present connecting route between the turning circle at the end of the Bambachstrasse and the Mariendorfer Weg. The need was for an adequate and secure pathway for pedestrians and cyclists while the adjacent areas were designed to offer suitably organised and contemporary zones for play and sport.
The new pathway crosses the site of the 'Silbersteinplatz' sports centre. None of the existing trees were felled and the route was adapted to the terrain; it extends in a more-or-less straight line between the Bambachstrasse and the Mariendorfer Weg. It is a public pathway designed for use by pedestrians and cyclists. The path itself has an asphalt surface and is 5 m in width; there is new lighting consisting of insect-friendly LED post lamps.
Four new car parking spaces for disabled persons who wish to use the adjoining sports centre have been added at the entrance to the centre. A new crossover has been constructed on the Mariendorfer Weg and Bambachstrasse to enable utility vehicles and users to access the centre. New bicycle stands have been installed at the ends of the two roads for users of the play and sport facilities. The crossing on the busy Mariendorfer Weg has been modified to connect it with the new pathway. The route of the new public pathway is separated by a newly constructed fence from the sports centre and the neighbouring private properties.
As part of the new pathway project, a large playground with high quality play equipment has been built. The playground was designed to ensure that the existing valuable, shady trees were preserved. These help partition the various play zones and give each an individual character. It was possible to retain the trees by means of the use of curvilinear features and free forms that provide the surfaces of the play zones. Hence, there is a variety of play zones aimed at various age groups, differentiated by means of surfacing, textures and equipment. Wood, wood chip, sand and gravel are the predominant materials present in this protective play oasis under shady trees away from the teeming boulevards of Neukölln in Berlin.
The play zone for young children offers, in addition to a standard sandpit, a parkours construction suitable for the age group and play and mud tables together with a plant island with robust flowering shrubs. The play zone for older children offers a combined climbing structure made of robinia wood, a swing net and nest swing with impact-attenuating gravel under them. Between these gravel and sand islands there is a forest play zone. Under the tall deciduous trees here there is a small wooden platform and balancing equipment over wood chip surfacing. This shady climbing corner can not only be used as a place of retreat but acts as a buffer zone between the zones dedicated to the young and older children.
The whole play area is fenced in; greenery is provided in the form of new planted flowering and fruiting shrubs, screening the play area from the neighbouring sites.
The soccer pitch adjacent to the residential properties that had fallen into a state of disrepair was relocated to new site next to the Mariendorfer Weg. The new location was selected with a view to providing residents with protection against noise and the preservation of existing trees. In its new position, the pitch has a direct link with the sports centre next door.
The pitch has green plastic surfacing, two small format goals and surrounding ball stop fencing. As it is accessible from the nearby full-sized pitch, it too can be used by clubs.
Eva Zerjatke · Knut Honsell · Jens Henningsen
Henningsen Landschaftsarchitekten PartG mbB