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03.12.2020 - Ausgabe: 6/2020

Cooperative playgrounds with a feel-good atmosphere in residential areas

By Julia Grotjahn, Wohnungsgenossenschaft Johannstadt eG

© Wohnungsgenossenschaft Johannstadt eG

A spectacular slide or maybe rather a challenging jungle gym? Equipping playgrounds will often prove challenging. Both the young and the older visitors should, after all, get their money’s worth. This is why the Wohnungsgenossenschaft Johannstadt eG (WGJ) took the preferences of their residents into account before replacing an older piece of equipment on one of its playgrounds in Dresden’s Striesen district. Codetermination of members is at the heart of the WGJ. The welfare of its residents is particularly important to a cooperative.

The tenants ultimately chose a multifunctional climbing tower with slide. This would be popular with both younger and older children. A long, curved tube will be popular with those of primary school age, whilst two shorter slides will challenge the youngest to some fun. Several climbing options complement the feature. Different levels of difficulty will challenge the climbing urge in children, hereby promoting motor skills, balance and self-confidence.

The playground, in addition to the new equipment, will offer its visitors further adventures. A large sandbox challenges all bakers of sand cakes. The resourceful fantasy bakers can then serve their baked creations to friends in the adjacent log cabin. This is good training for communication and role play. And what about the swing taking you as high as you dare. Hide-and-seek is particularly popular in a dome shaped by climbing plants and green tendrils. 

But the playground appeals not only to children from the neighbourhood. A children’s day-care centre in the immediate vicinity is affiliated with the housing association and uses the play area as well. This is why the playground is an important afternoon meeting point for both children and parents. Seating around the play area and the numerous trees and bushes in the large landscaped inner courtyard invite families to linger, thus offering added value to adults as well.

Not only has the WGJ, as a large Dresden housing company and co-designer of the urban environment, a duty towards its members but it also has environmental and social responsibilities. The WGJ therefore attaches great importance to the preservation and further development of playgrounds as essential places for neighbourhood families to meet. This is why the playgrounds are open to the public also. Outdoor facilities offer important opportunities for exercise in everyday life, a life generally dominated by sitting. They furthermore serve as a place of social contact and exchange of experience. The housing company owns 70 playgrounds, all of these professionally maintained by the cooperative’s team of caretakers.

The need for playgrounds as neighbourhood recreational facilities became even more apparent when the WGJ needed to temporarily close such a playground, due to construction work. The cooperative therefore created another play area in the neighbourhood, as a substitute service.

The responsible persons, before selecting the playground equipment, surveyed the neighbourhood to ensure that the needs of residents will not be ignored. Since the youth will find leisure facilities in their immediate area, the company concentrated on the younger generation, their parents and grandparents in the design of the playground. This is how a shady sandbox and a blockhouse was created for the little ones. A challenging balancing track will develop the sense of balance of kindergarten and primary school attendants. A new boccia court will offer adults the necessary compensation. The concept also included a meeting place for all generations. The objective here pays tribute to central cooperative ideas such as community and cohesion. Since the well-being of playground visitors is paramount, the WGJ also offers various conventional and log benches and attractive greenery. For safety, the playground was also fenced off against the street.

And since the playgrounds of the Johannstadt community will come with toy boxes included, children need not worry about lack of sand toys. The children will here store their outside toys and share them with others. Not only has this the advantage of not needing to bring your sand toys from home when you visit the playground, but used buckets, shovels etc. can be donated, not thrown away.

The idea behind this principle is one of sharing. This traditional virtue has long since been resurrected and is now a trend in society. Sharing promotes concepts of sustainability, an important WGJ principle. These boxes offer not only storage space but also variety since children can exchange toys. This was probably the motivation behind the WGJ members who proposed that their cooperative should buy such toy boxes. This once more illustrates how important the commitment of members is to cooperatives.

With this combination of varied playgrounds, green outdoor areas and lovingly designed seating arrangements, the WGJ is making significant contributions to the work-life balance of its residents. Exercise in fresh air, an attractive living environment and social networks will sustain physical and mental health and contribute to the feel-good atmosphere in the residential areas.

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