By Lea Mispelkamp (Landesgartenschau Kamp-Lintfort 2020 GmbH)
Covering an area of around 62 acres, the “Zechenpark” (Colliery Park) is one of the sites of the 2020 Landesgartenschau (State Horticultural Show) and it will be put to permanent use as a green space with attractive new apartments after the show. The park surrounding the playscape extends from Friedrichstraße in the north to Kattenstraße in the south. To the east, the area is bordered by Ringstraße and the upper reaches of the Große Goorley. The design of the playground equipment and its arrangement on the individual play areas is inspired by the design language of the resulting park and the formal structures of the buildings and facilities of the former coal mine. Clean lines, basic rectangular shapes and enclosed spaces – these three attributes characterise the newly created playscape in the southern part of the Colliery Park.
As part of the 2020 State Horticultural Show in Kamp-Lintfort, a playscape has been created in the natural green space fringe, the eastern part of the Colliery Park, which invites children to immerse themselves in the industrial culture of the past. The 2,000 m2 playscape offers a wide variety of play activities, including sliding, crawling, balancing or swinging.
Three play areas let children experience the process chain of mining and the miners’ daily work in a playful manner. The different areas provide a deeper insight into the mining, extraction and processing of hard coal. The guiding colour green forms a link in terms of design between the buildings on the mining site and the surrounding park. The choice of materials such as steel and composites also underlines the reference to the industrial buildings. The differentiation of the playscape into three areas has resulted in a playground for all ages. At the same time, the play areas are situated right next to each other, providing a coherent play experience for all users. The playscape design does not only cater to the needs of children of different ages, but also to those of users of all abilities. By implementing the two-way principle and by making some of the play stations accessible to users with limited mobility, it was also possible to meet inclusion requirements in the design.
The southernmost area of the playscape is particularly suitable for the very young visitors. In a specially designed crawling shaft with a maximum height of 0.94 metres, children aged between 0 and 6 years learn how miners have made their way through narrow shafts into areas suitable for coal mining. The supporting posts of the tunnel are connected horizontally by transverse posts. This construction method is abstractly reminiscent of the design of mining tunnels. What children want to experience is crawling and creeping. The inner net structures, which have to be overcome, are particularly exciting. Openings in the tunnel walls at regular intervals allow enough light to enter and interaction with the outside is ensured. A spring rocker is modelled on a mining cart. By bouncing and rocking, skills are tried out in individual or group play. A spoil pile is also provided. Instead of piled up waste rock, ropes and horizontally suspended hammocks invite children to rock and chill out. A sand play factory enables children to transport sand in buckets on a conveyor belt in the same way as they would transport coal. Digging, excavating, layering – children’s imagination knows no bound. Thanks to a terracing in the ground, it is also possible for wheelchair users to access the play equipment and thus join the play. Entirely in keeping with the loose bulk material of coal and overburden, sand was chosen as fall protection material for the entire flooring in this southern play area. Once suitable areas for coal mining have been discovered, it is possible to start transporting the material inside the shafts in play area 2 and to remove overburden. The hard coal is brought to the surface.
Hard coal mining
The elongated central play area makes it possible for children of all ages to work at the Friedrich Heinrich colliery. The approximately 300 m2 area was designed in the style of the buildings on the colliery site. The seamless safety surfacing made of rubber granules matches the guiding colour green. A crossing path, which is incorporated into the surface, blends in perfectly with the pathways outside the playground.
A ropes course with different stages of physical activity combines play values such as balancing, climbing, dexterity, proceeding hand over hand and walking across bridges. The horizontal arrangement of the nets is deliberately reminiscent of the miners’ pithead baths. In these changing rooms for miners, the miners’ belongings were safely stored on a vertical rope during the shift. The framework of the course consists mainly of a frame of hot-dip galvanized, powder-coated steel posts and plastic-coated, galvanized steel wire ropes. The transverse posts that are also used to form the frame are inspired by the pit props used in mining tunnels.
A special highlight of the playscape are the approximately 5.50 m high climbing towers. These are designed to resemble the pithead frames (shafts 1 and 2) in the Colliery Park and include a climbing frame and a slide. The red lateral surfaces of the tower are perforated to add transparency to the object and illuminate the interior, thus creating anxiety-free spaces. At the same time, it clearly resembles the visible original. These aesthetic qualities were identified on several occasions even before the opening of the site and, when viewed from a suitable angle to the winding tower, they provide great photo motifs. The green pithead frame was abstractly placed next to the other winding tower in the play area. The two towers are connected by a crawl tube. Inside the towers, there is a wide variety of play options, inviting children to embark on adventures and engage in role play. Stainless steel rods as guardrail provide both safety and a clear view. A large enclosed stainless steel slide provides a thrilling, adrenaline-fueled experience.
Three in-ground trampolines and a ground-level merry-go-round complete the range of playground equipment in the central play area. At the same time, particular attention was paid to inclusion when planning this play area. The aforementioned seamless safety surfacing enables children and accompanying persons to easily access the play area and all play stations. This allows children with disabilities to join the play and at the same time to play autonomously. The ground-level merry-go-round allows wheelchair users in particular to directly access the playground equipment. The in-ground trampolines also offer children with disabilities a wide range of opportunities to join in the fun - sometimes with the assistance of the accompanying persons.
Processing of the raw material
While play area 2 focuses on the physically demanding work and the extraction of the hard coal with the help of the winding tower, play area 3 is dedicated to the processing of the extracted raw material. The play activities on the likewise 300 m2 area, which is suitable for older children, are characterized by horizontal movements in particular. A large multi-play unit was individually designed according to plan, similar to the winding towers in play area 2. This play unit provides children with viewing areas, platforms, climbing opportunities and different slide heights. The outer elements alternately feature vertical stainless steel elements and surface structures. Different shades of green were created within the guiding colour green. The adjoining “forest of poles” is designed as a coherent structure, which adopts the design language of the neighbouring playground equipment due to its gallery-like appearance by using frame posts. Balance equipment is used to playfully recreate the conveyor belt in a long play course. Swinging platforms and relaxing hammocks are also included; hanging seats, balance beams and monkey bar rings complete the range of horizontally aligned play elements. A rope swing with its group play functions based on the principle of a swing boat tops off the playground.
Rugged, durable and environmentally friendly
Selected materials are used for the playground equipment in the entire playscape. Slides and rods are made of stainless steel, which is resistant and recyclable. In addition, the stainless steel adds a very attractive design accent. Furthermore, low-maintenance and at the same time weather-resistant compact panels (resin composite panels) were used. These are also environmentally friendly as 85 per cent of the raw materials used are rapidly renewable. The plastic parts used, ropes with steel strands and stainless steel screws are also characterized by their robust workmanship.
This uniquely designed playscape on the site of the former Friedrich Heinrich colliery (most recently: Bergwerk West), has made it possible to bring a piece of mining history to life through play. Or as German miners would put it: “Glück auf!” (Good luck!).
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