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02.12.2021 - Ausgabe: 6/2021

Wächtersbacher Straße Green Corridor – inclusive play area

By Petra Breit (grün³ landschaftsarchitekten bdla)

© Helmut Fricke

The inclusive toddler playground is part of an approximately 420-metre-long green corridor in Frankfurt’s Fechenheim-Nord district. The green corridor shields the adjacent residential area from a busy access road to an industrial and commercial area. A key design feature is the ground modelling, taking into account the existing trees. 

The Frankfurt am Main Parks Department awarded the planning contract to the landscape architecture firm at the end of 2017. The objective of the planning was to pool the play areas scattered throughout the green corridor and, in particular, to protect the toddler playground from dog fouling. All user groups were to be provided with facilities that were both attractive and vandal-proof. Since there are only a few inclusive play facilities in the immediate vicinity, the planning office had set itself the goal from the very beginning of getting both young and old people with disabilities to participate in play and recreational activities. 


Existing situation  

To the north and west is a mixed residential area with four-storey apartment blocks as well as single-family and terraced houses. There are three day-care centres, a primary school, a secondary school and a sports field nearby. A committed neighbourhood management campaigns for the residents' interests and provides play and leisure activities for children and adults from many nations. 

The existing play and recreational areas had become dilapidated and several pieces of playground equipment had already been dismantled without being replaced. Owing to the resident demographics of families with small children, the land-use pressure on the areas in the green corridor is very high. 

In 2018, the landscape architects developed a play concept that formed the basis for discussions with the children and their parents. As a result, the neighbourhood management in cooperation with a moderator organized a public participation in the form of a planning workshop in September 2018, supported by the parks department and the planning office. There were four working groups, one of which also dealt with the play facilities for the little ones. The approximately 40 participants were given the opportunity to design "their" areas using drawings, pens and texts. One of the things that was important to the children and caregivers was that everyone should be able to play and socialize with each other. This is where the idea of equipping the toddler area with inclusive and, above all, barrier-free playground equipment was solidified. Not only children with disabilities were to be given the opportunity to play, but it should also be possible for caregivers with limited mobility to actively participate. 

The biggest problem identified by residents was the soiling of the green corridor by dog excrement and the littering of the shrubberies by illegal rubbish dumping and used drug needles and syringes. Another wish that they all had in common was to have well-lit and barrier-free paths throughout the green corridor. Almost all aspects that had been requested were incorporated into the design concept following the public participation.

The planning now provides for the consolidation of the play areas in the eastern part of the green corridor. There was an existing large play area with woodchip surfacing nestled in a hollow, featuring a climbing pyramid and various wobble balance boards and bands for older children. This area at the end of the green corridor was an ideal location for the toddler playground, which was to be protected by a fence. In order to have as little impact as possible on the rooting zone of the surrounding trees, the existing hollow was used, recontoured and divided up. The adjacent play area for older children to the west of the access path remains unfenced, but is clearly recognizable as a play area and extends as a play path along and through the shrubbery. The existing and newly planned picnic areas to the north of the play areas provide an unobstructed view of both user groups. 

The remaining part of the green corridor can be used by all residents to play on the lawn and explore the green centre with its gently rolling landscape.


Inclusive and barrier-free play area for children up to 8 years of age 

The play area for toddlers and primary school children up to the age of approximately 8 is divided into three parts with different types of flooring. The connecting element is a ramp system to which various play facilities designed for everyone are attached. This ramp system can be used by children with and without disabilities to play and move around and provides access to an accessible sand construction site in the direction of the sand area, a climbing tower with a trough slide and, at the end of the ramp, a wide single slide. Red EPDM flooring marks the end of the wide slide. From there, it is possible to directly take a wheelchair to the ground using a wheelchair staircase, or for children who are able to move to get back to the slide entrance quickly without having to walk around the entire play area to the beginning of the ramp. In this respect, this play area is not only designed to be inclusive, but also has many features that are accessible to people with disabilities. Another play structure is a bird's nest swing on the EPDM area, which appeals to all children there and makes them want to lose themselves in reverie. It is deliberately so small as to make it unattractive for older children to romp around. This helps to avoid conflicts between the different age groups. 

In close cooperation with the playground equipment manufacturer, the ramp system was developed, refined and adapted to meet the requirements and fit into the surroundings. The manufacturer has a wealth of experience in the development, planning and implementation of inclusive playground equipment and was happy to assist and provide advice at any time, especially regarding safety aspects. More play facilities could gradually be integrated into the ramp railing and the ramp surface. 

In the spacious sand area, in addition to the little house of the sand construction site, there is another playhouse and spring rockers, which are designed as farm animals at the children’s request, so that a small enclosed village has been created. 

The former paving around the play area nestled in a hollow was replaced with a beige-coloured asphalt, which now bounces gently around the play areas. This is a great and, above all, safe place to have Bobby Car races or practise riding a scooter or a bicycle, far away from roads and car parks. Within the fenced-in toddler area, there is also a recreation area with picnic tables under trees. A grandstand made of shell limestone blocks at the "race track" as well as wall blocks with wooden seats at the sand area provide further seating accommodation. 

The existing underplanting of trees was largely removed and replaced by lawns. Pruning-tolerant or flowering woody plants were added in some places. The area can thus be easily surveyed and played on. The areas are now also easier to maintain, contributing to an improved maintenance management. 


Play area for children over the age of 8 

There is a large, colourful climbing frame with various ascents and a steep slide. In an adjacent area with woodchip surfacing there is a tall double swing. A zip line and a play path with wood and stones leading through the bushes encourage the children to run and move around. Here, the construction company made use of existing elements in close cooperation with the planning office. The children will certainly recognize some of the carved beams. At the end of the play path there is a small corner with a play table and seats. At the play table itself, seats were "reserved" for wheelchair users, making sure that inclusion was also taken into account among the adults. 

Thanks to the good cooperation between the parks department, the planning office, the neighbourhood management and the contractors, this playground was implemented and is now available to all children in the neighbourhood, taking into account their individual abilities and needs.


Further information:

Total costs for both play areas:

A gross amount of € 380,000, of which approx. 1/3 was spent on the play area for children over the age of 8. 



Commissioning of landscape architecture firm                      August 2017

Development of play concept                                               October 2017 to June 2018

Draft                                                                                      August 2018

Public participation                                                                September 2018

Elaboration of design and application for funds                    by June 2019

Detailed design and tendering                                              by December 2019

Awarding of contract                                                             May 2020

Construction period - demolition and new construction         September 2020 to May 2021

Planning office                                                                      grün³ Frankfurt

Contractor                                                                            Johannes Werner,  Limeshain

Inclusive playground equipment                                           Kinderland Emsland Spielgeräte


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