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17.08.2020 - Ausgabe: 4/2020

Play at the heart of the city – a new playground for Göttingen

©Berliner Seilfabrik GmbH & Co.

At the heart of Göttingen city centre is Pauliner Kirchplatz. This key site from a local history perspective served as a cemetery in the Middle Ages and then again until the middle of the 17th century before becoming an inner-city square in the 18th and 19th centuries. Since the 1960s the university's car park had been located here.

After many years of political disputes over the potential use of the site for a new inner-city playground, at the start of 2017 the city administration and university finally agreed to use part of the square for the creation of a greenspace with a children's playground.

Today, just three and a half years later, Pauliner Kirchplatz is the site of a diverse children's playground with a wide array of play and exercise facilities. And the undisputed centrepiece is a more than ten-metre-long Twist manufactured by the Berliner Seilfabrik company. Like two playful snakes its two pipe constructions intertwine, providing a frame for the giant net that winds along between the twisting pipes. The children of the city can now climb, romp and play on or simply hang from these pipes to their hearts' content. At the narrower end of the play sculpture two curved sliding poles that run parallel in the shape of a banister have been installed.

Alongside the Twist is a nest swing. The striking feature of the so-called Arch Swing is that the nest basket is attached to a closed tubular arch by means of system balls. Since the Twist also consists of tubular arches of different sizes which are also attached by means of system balls, with the colours of the Arch Swing and Twist harmonising perfectly. Neither the design nor the colour were left to chance when selecting the play equipment.

"Creating playgrounds in Göttingen's city centre is a challenging proposition. Narrow streets, old half-timbered houses and the lack of available space make it difficult to find a suitable area", says Ulrike Voges, head of the specialist greenspace service of Göttingen city council. So the willingness of Göttingen University to agree to lease out part of its site to the city council really was a stroke of luck. "This meant that the choice of the play equipment was important: the playground needed to provide a unique offering for the district, its design and colour scheme contrasting harmoniously with the listed environment while at the same time providing stimulation for children. "

And the organic form of the Twist play sculpture and the Arch swing does indeed provide a pleasant contrast with the clear lines of the surrounding half-timbered facades. At the same time the colour scheme of pale green pipes, rust brown balls and beige rope incorporates the colour spectrum of the environment on Pauliner Kirchplatz, thus ensuring the appropriate balance.

And The Twist certainly lives up to its striking design when it comes to play value. For the giant net is not just fantastic for climbing over but also encourages large numbers of children to play together at the same time. "Thanks to the abstract character of the play sculpture there is no specific theme. And as a result children have the opportunity to put their own play ideas into practice and constantly redefine them", says Karl Köhler, Managing Director of Berliner Seilfabrik. "The Twist can be a ship on the high seas, a jungle bridge that needs to be crossed or perhaps a giant dragon upon whose back children are flying through the air – the imaginative possibilities are endless."

For the transition from the rope to the pipe the designers and engineers from the Berliner Creative Center came up with a very special idea. The rope end disappears inside the curved steel tube with the aid of the patented Charlotte connector and is thus anchored in the pipe structure without visible seals or hooks. The rope ends are simplicity itself to incorporate, adjust and even retighten.

Like the Twist, a major advantage of the Arch Swing is that it can be simultaneously used by several people. "Nest swings, which were originally developed for therapeutic purposes, are not simply popular with many children - an additional plus is that the large lying area often allows able-bodied and disabled children to swing together", says Maria Feske. As a psychologist and a state-approved special needs care professional she heads up a daycare facility for people with a wide range of disabilities in Berlin and has been advising Berliner Seilfabrik on the design of inclusive playgrounds for many years. "In this way a genuine feeling of togetherness can be fostered between children with different abilities and levels of development." Thanks to a permeable artificial turf barrier-free impact protection surface the play equipment is all accessible to wheelchair users.

This also applies to the three trampolines, which have been installed flush to the ground in the eastern part of the playground and offer numerous additional opportunities for exercise. The trampolines are designed to minimise pressure on the joints,  make falling and landing pleasant and are also perfectly adapted to the bodies of growing children. As well as for classic jumping they are also ideal for fitness exercises, making the playground attractive for multi-generational use.

The playground on Pauliner Kirchplatz was built under rather adverse conditions, recalls Ulrike Voges: "No sooner had the project got underway in August 2019 than construction work had to cease again due to the need to carry out extensive archaeological excavations." The design had in fact envisaged a raising of the playground in order to minimise disturbance to the layers of the cemetery. However, numerous human skeletons were encountered at a depth of just 30 cm. A total of 121 archaeological finds were documented including 90 completely or partially exposed graves. Also unearthed were a bone pit and the remains of the cemetery's former ossuary, where bones found at an earlier date were stored. In addition, the archaeologists came across the foundation walls of an earlier sacristy, which made an important contribution to the construction history of the church.

It was possible to complete the playground last April despite the coronavirus pandemic. And children were delighted when the the city of Göttingen's playgrounds began to gradually reopen under specific conditions from 6 May: "I think the big climbing loop is really great", nine-year-old Selin informs the Göttinger Tageblatt newspaper as she clambers over the Twist with her friend. And Birte Rensow, head of the special greenspaces services of Göttingen city council, is also satisfied: "It's so lovely that that the playground on Pauliner Kirchplatz has now opened and that children are able to enjoy an appealing new play facility".


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