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13.08.2021 - Ausgabe: 4/2021

Redesign of the water playground in the Inner Green Belt of the City of Cologne

By Birgitta Henkel (Graduate Engineer) and Axel Schütze (Graduate Engineer AKNW / BDLA) - Axel Schütze Landscape Architecture Office

© Axel Schütze, Birgitta Henkel, Felix Arabin (Landschaftsarchitekturbüro Axel Schütze)

The City of Cologne is looking forward to the water playground being well received. In addition to the high recreational value for children, the water playground has a positive effect on the microclimate in the Inner Green Belt. 

The water playground is located in the approximately seven-kilometre-long Cologne Green Belt between Venloer Straße and Vogelsanger Straße, in the immediate vicinity of Colonius, Cologne's television tower.
 With a size of approx. 1,250 m², the water playground is a great enrichment for this green oasis close to the city centre. In addition, it can be easily reached within a few minutes by the residents of the residential areas in the city centre as well as those to the west. The nearby playgrounds, the outdoor fitness course, basketball and tennis courts are particularly popular in the morning when the weather is nice. 

With the opening of the water playground on 15 June 2021, another attraction has now been added to the green belt of the city of Cologne, which will once again significantly increase the local recreational value of this green belt. 


Design concept and planning phase

Initial work on a new design for the water playground had already been underway since 2009. Most of the previous water playground equipment from the 1960s was defective and almost all the equipment had to be dismantled for safety reasons. Together with the meanwhile very dreary asphalt surface, the last picture was one of an almost completely cleared out water play landscape. 

Thus the goal of the refurbishment was to create a place where the visitors could linger and feel good all year round, while at the same time the highest sustainability requirements and responsible use of resources had to be met.
Of course, special attention was paid to the water technology, especially in view of the increasingly dry summers of recent years.
 The water supply for the individual attractions is now controlled from an engineering room installed underground. 

The operating times are preset so that the water playground is currently fed by water between 09:00 hrs and 19:00 hrs. 

In order to meet the demand for water on the one hand and to ensure that consumption is as economical as possible on the other, special attention is paid to the following aspects. On the one hand, the use of technical means limits consumption. At all times, different devices are activated and not all water attractions and floor jets are fed with water at the same time. Furthermore, the swirling of the water in the individual water attractions and floor jets creates the impression that considerably more water is being used than is actually the case. Of the available 30 m³ of water per hour supplied by the supplier, only a maximum of half of this amount is currently used per hour. 

In addition, it is possible to interrupt the water operation in case of strong wind and a preset temperature via the existing weather station that has been installed at the Park Café. The City of Cologne is currently still testing which setting options prove to be the most optimal in terms of user enjoyment and water consumption.

The children can switch on the water attractions and floor jets themselves via two activators located in the area of the square and close to the water attractions and thus actively intervene in the water action. If these activators are not pressed, the water flow stops after a set period of time. This also ensures that water only flows when needed.  

Another very important planning aspect was the flooring of the area, as this issue entails a wide range of different requirements to be met at the same time. Both the specifications regarding fall protection were as important as the water impermeability of the surface. Although the water attractions are not specifically designed for climbing, which would potentially be possible, the fall-absorbing properties of the surfacing had to be considered. In addition, the entire area was to be designed in such a way that the children can frolic around unhindered and that a cushioned floor protects them from injury in case they fall down. At the same time, the surface had to have a certain slip resistance to prevent accidents. Last but not least, the flooring had to be installed very precisely in order to ensure that the accumulated water is quickly channelled to the water drains. For reasons of hygiene, no standing water should remain on the site which is permanently open to the public.
 In addition to the aforementioned technical requirements, the design also played an important role. Hence, the area was produced in different colours and now conveys beach atmosphere and a feeling of holiday through its sand-coloured and water-blue colour scheme.

Outside the operating hours of the water playground, the surface is also very popular with recreational athletes, not least because of its elastic and shock-absorbing nature. In the early hours of the morning, entire dance and gymnastics groups, yoga fans and even martial artists can be found on the surface. 


Construction phase

After the former water play equipment had been completely dismantled, the previous asphalt surface was removed. Afterwards, work began on the new surface.
After the area had been excavated to the required depth, the edging of the area and the precisely calculate level installation of the 78 foundations for the water attractions and ground jets followed. For the edge banding, specially manufactured moulded concrete gutter stones with a length of 50 cm were installed, with their dimensions exactly matching the inlet boxes, which were also specially manufactured. The individual foundations for the water attractions and floor jets were also custom-made because of the necessary recesses for the water inlet.
Subsequently, both the water tubes and the electrical wiring were laid and the preparatory work for the installation and connection of the water attractions was carried out.

The installation of the mineral gravel base layer was followed by the installation of the Sureplay Splash PU fall protection surface by the Procon company. 

This consists first of all of the damping layer applied from a newly developed layer of E-TPU (closed-cell foam particles of thermoplastic polyurethane) in a thickness of 40 mm. In some places, this thickness was increased to 80 mm due to the greater drop height required. A load distribution layer of 10 mm thickness of rubber-based EPDM granules was applied on top of this damping layer. The pore closure and the finally coloured coating were then applied on top of this layer. Both layers ensure the water impermeability of the covering.

Greatest demands were made on the compliance with the slope and the tightness at the connection points to the concrete moulded gutter stones and stainless-steel drains.
 After various considerations, the City of Cologne decided on an underfloor location for the water technology. The water technology of the old system was still housed in the basement of the neighbouring kiosk. During the planning phase, it quickly became clear that this would no longer be possible in the future for reasons of space and the necessary maintenance access. Therefore, the engineering firm Bayer planned the installation of an underfloor container. A 7.20 m long, 2.40 m wide and 2.10 m high container, which serves as a technical room, was installed underground in the immediate vicinity of the area. By means of a 250-tonne mobile crane, the container, which had been almost completely prefabricated in the factory, was lowered into a previously installed concrete enclosure. A steel root bridge serves as a cover and absorbs the expansion loads of the overlying lawns and paving as well as the traffic loads. 

Now it is only the access shaft of the technical container which is still visible on the surface.


Design and equipment

After the completion of the water play areas, the water attractions from Roigk could be installed and connected. Water beetles, frogs, crabs, palm trees and sea grasses, as well as many different floor jets that are spraying water in the form of vertical fountains, tails or water tunnels, are arranged in a sophisticated choreography on the surface. Together with the centrally placed, large water snake, the attractions now provide diverse pleasure. The design of the area is rounded off by the benches and litter bins placed in the peripheral areas. So nothing will stand in your way to a refreshing outdoor excursion on a hot summer's day.


Parties involved in the planning process:

City of Cologne
Office for Children, Youth and Family Affairs
 Children's Interests and Playground Affairs

Karree, Ottmar-Pohl-Platz
 151103 Cologne

Planning and construction management water playground

Landscape Architecture Office Axel Schütze

Antwerpener Str. 7, 50672 Cologne


Planning and construction management water technology

Engineering firm H.-P. Bayer Ingenieurbüro 

Holzbüttger Str. 1-3

41564 Kaarst / Büttgen



Company A. Frauenrath Landschaftsbau GmbH & Co. KG

Industriestraße 50

52525 Heinsberg


Synthetic fall protection covering 

Company PROCON Play and Leisure GmbH

Van-der-Reis-Weg 11-19

59590 Geseke


Water technology
Company Thomas Herrmann GmbH
Kirchfeldstraße 50
 51643 Gummersbach


Water attractions and floor jets
ROIGK GmbH & Co.
Hundeickerstr. 11-19
 58285 Gevelsberg


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