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22.11.2010 - Ausgabe: 5/2010

First place: the “Sunshine” playground


The Die Grüne Stadt foundation organised the first nationwide “Green playgrounds“ competition in 2009/2010 under the aegis of the consumer protection minister Ilse Aigner. By the entry deadline in summer 2010 almost 70 applications had been submitted. The breadth of the applications – towns and local authorities, church authorities, initiatives and landscape planners – underline that the themes of play and experiencing nature for children are of great societal importance. The proud winners were announced at the GaLabau trade fair in Nuremberg on 17th September 2010. The winner and the five other contenders each presented their playground concepts individually before Wolfgang Reimer, as representative of the consumer protection ministry, and Hanns-Jürgen Redeker, representing the foundation, awarded the prizes: The landscape architects Helmut Mühlbacher and Jürgen Hilse won the EUR 10,000 first prize for the “Sunshine playground“ in Freilassing.

“Sunshine“ in Freilassing

The “Sunshine“ nature and adventure playground commissioned by the town of Freilassing was finished in summer 2009. The approximately 2,400-m2 playground is situated on a sloping plot of land. In the southwest of the land a three-metre high noise protection wall runs along the Freilassing - Bad Reichenhall railway. To the north is the Schlenkenstraße development area. To the east are agricultural areas. Behind the railway line is a dense wood of spruce. The playground offers numerous views of the nearby Berchtesgaden Alps. Under the development plan the wall along the railway had to remain the same length and height as a noise protection wall for the new housing estate. From this predicament the planning office developed an idea for the basic spatial structure of the land.
The basic idea for the conception of the playground was to develop a unique play landscape from the spatial features of the plot which constantly offers fresh movement and play incentives. The focus is on creative play and engaging with nature with all the senses. The first priority was to involve local people to make the playground the social meeting point and heart of the new estate on Schlenkenstraße. The involvement of local people, however, was not limited to the planning process. Residents were encouraged to get involved in the development, for example in a communal planting and painting initiative. The children from the nursery collected suggested names for the new playground. A wooden wall and playhouse for the infants were erected in partnership with a project group for the rehabilitation of the long-term unemployed.

Concept content and implementation

A key element of the concept is the sustainability of the playground with regard to its content and form. At present most residents in Schlenkenstraße are families with young children. However, the play offering has been designed in such a way that it will remain interesting to children in a few years time. The playground has also become a local meeting place for parents and residents of the estate. Moreover, the deliberate decision to build a playground that is close to nature also leaves scope for the further development of its shape and form. A “final condition“ will take many years to achieve.

The creation of different “forms of play” also contributes to the concept. In addition to specific play apparatus there are also play opportunities which arise from the shape of the land or from natural materials. Users are encouraged to constantly find creative new ways of engaging with the site. The focal point is a climbing structure gently integrated into a gentle slope on the play hill facing the mountains. The construction of tree trunks, ropes and nets requires – depending on how high the user wishes to climb – varying degrees of courage, skill and concentration, so that the apparatus represents a challenge for all ages. Another focal point is the water play area. Following the natural course of the land, water is channelled to a higher point using a pump, passing several stations en route to the sand and mud pit at the foot of the hill. The aim of this feature is to encourage children to make technical connections while playing, for example by channelling the water in an Archimedian spiral. Communication and cooperation are also of the essence for lots of hands are required to channel and dam the water and to convey it upwards in the spiral. A separate infant play area was created so that smaller children can play in peace and be easily supervised. This is located on the edge of the playground but runs smoothly into the other play areas.
In addition to the activity areas there are also places for resting and hiding. The summit of the hill, for example, serves as a sunny spot and viewing point while a seated area with tables and benches under trees operates as a meeting place and picnic area. It should be emphasised that the primary objective was to design a play landscape which was equally appealing to all age groups and which blends seamlessly into the landscape.


All series produced play equipment comes from manufacturers whose products are standardised and certified by the Federal Technical Inspection Service. In addition the complete site, including the play facilities, was inspected and approved by Federal Technical Inspection Service. Since the playground is situated directly alongside a railway the land was completely fenced in. This has been done to prevent play activity moving into the area of the railway. In addition to the fence a brightly painted wooden fence was erected to screen the railway tracks. Youth workers and the local playground “godparent” group were also involved in the development of the concept. In addition a local family agreed to assume responsibility for the facility under the playground godparent programme. Any concerns or requests can be directed to this family, who then relay them to the town authorities as the operator of the playground.

The town of Freilassing provided financing for the development, which was delivered at a total cost of €146,5000 – just below the estimated budget of €150,000 for planning and construction.
TM / Mühlbacher and Hilse
Photos: Mühlbacher and Hilse

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