A breathtaking climbing structure has been created at Cologne’s Rathenauplatz in record time.
Playground at Schalksburgschule and toddler playground at the day-care centre in Albstadt-Ebingen
By Iris Grimm (arbol landschaftsarchitektur Iris Grimm + Alexander Mezger Freie Landschaftsarchitekten Part mbB)
The castle-like playground of Schalksburgschule all-day school in Albstadt-Ebingen catches the eye as you enter the town from the direction of Albstadt-Lautlingen. The refurbishment of the all-day school a few years earlier was followed by the redesign of the school’s play and exercise areas as part of the play space development concept of the city of Albstadt. These areas are available for both school and public use.
At the same time, a new toddler play area was created near the adjacent day-care centre and crèche, which can also be used by the public.
The Schalksburgschule gets a newly designed themed playground as an identity-forming element. The historical ruin of Schalksburg Castle, a former hilltop castle nestled high up in the Swabian Alb, gives its name to the play castle and the associated all-day primary school. The surrounding, prominent natural environment of the Swabian Alb provides the basic design concept for the playground: the Schalksburg castle is perched on the rocky ridge; in the lower, wooded areas, there is a hanging obstacle course reminiscent of the sparse deciduous forests that dominate the landscape; interspersed in the obstacle course are individual, broken rock formations, such as a solitary climbing rock.
It worked out pretty well: the Schalksburgschule schoolchildren and local kids have identified with their castle in no time at all and have come to understand the Schalksburg castle as an integral part of their school and dwelling environs. The crenellated castle playfully transforms the adventure playground theme.
The aim of the new planning was to create a multi-flexible play area for the pupils, some of whom spend many hours a day at school as part of their all-day schooling. In addition, this facility also serves as a newly designed public play area for the residents of the surrounding residential area.
There is also a day-care centre and a crèche on the site. A toddler play area, which is to be used by small children and which is also open to the public, was added, connecting the two buildings.
Schools as play and exercise areas
The existing topography of a uniformly sloping embankment with the picturesque lime trees providing shade was modified for the play concept and redesigned in favour of zoning into an upper play area and a lower play area. The modelling and arrangement of the different play areas on different levels allows many children to play in the different areas with different requirements at the same time.
The Schalksburg castle sits on a new rock formation, which playfully overcomes the difference in altitude between the upper and lower play areas, and wants to be stormed, climbed and conquered. At the same time, children enjoy playing on the battlements and towers. A tube slide takes children down to the lower area, from where they can climb up all over again. The Schalksburg castle is complemented by the separately arranged hanging obstacle course and the climbing rock in the lower play area. The hanging obstacle course and the climbing rock provide further exercise and play opportunities outside the castle. The hanging obstacle course can be explored and climbed as an enclosed course similar to a high ropes course. The climbing rock can be climbed via various routes with different levels of difficulty.
The surrounding natural stone ashlar masonry can be walked on and used for playing. The newly designed area with sitting steps can also be used as a place to spend the break time. Individual seats and steps made of robinia wood next to the magnificent trees complement this function in the upper play area.
The castle theme design details are also echoed in the new toddler playground built for the adjacent day-care centre with a separate crèche.
In this area, new access was provided to the flanking buildings of the day-care centre, the refectory and the crèche.
Accessible via the new step-free and level pathway, this area offers play opportunities for the kindergarten and crèche children to play on swings and seesaws and to balance.
A sand playhouse was planned as the central play element. based on the design of the Schalksburg. The edging of the sand play area can also be walked on and used to balance on. Individual wooden seats and steps in the surrounding lawns serve as seating and play elements.
Two wooden knight horses as spring rockers and a double swing with different swing seats for children and crèche children complete the range of play activities in the toddler area.
Over time, the additional tree plantings will lend both play areas a sparse, forest-like character in keeping with their natural surroundings.
The Schalksburg castle, as well as the accompanying play equipment of the hanging obstacle course, the sand playhouse, the spring rockers and the double swing were made entirely of natural, durable robinia wood. Only the roofscapes of the Schalksburg castle were accentuated in two colours – red and white – following the colour scheme of the Schalksburgschule. In keeping with the design concept, wood chips were used for the fall zones as a natural material typical of the site. Sand was used as the central play element in the toddler play area. The climbing rock made of concrete establishes a site-specific reference to the rugged rock formations of the surrounding landscape of the Swabian Alb.
The play adventure of a castle-themed playground based on the characteristic landscape of the Swabian Alb was consistently implemented from the first sketch to the final realisation.
The school and kindergarten site in conjunction with the surrounding residential area has been provided with a play area that fosters a sense of identity. The Schalksburg castle, a play structure visible from afar, serves as a beacon. The play area quickly became part of the Schalksburgschule identity. The coherent arrangement of the play facilities and the natural handling of the topography lend the playground a harmonious appearance.
A memorable place to play and hang out has been created, which contributes to and strengthens the local community life.
School and toddler playground at an all-day primary school and a day-care centre in Albstadt-Ebingen
Area: 23,681 ft2
Construction costs: approx. € 330,000 gross
Planning and construction period: 2019 – 2020
Planning: Work stages 3 bis 8: arbol Landschaftsarchitektur Part mbB,
Iris Grimm + Alexander Megzer, 78628 Rottweil