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19.04.2022 - Ausgabe: 2/2022

An outdoor playroom

By POLA Landschaftsarchitekten GmbH

© Hanns Joosten

Having won the first prize in a restricted competition with 15 anonymous participating offices, POLA Landscape Architects were commissioned in 2017 with the open space planning of around 5 hectares of the Osnabrück Palace Garden. Special attention was paid to taking into account the listed parts, the competing land-use pressure and the many links and connecting paths with the surrounding area. 

To gain a deeper understanding of the solution to the planning task provided by POLA, it is worth taking a look at history: At the instigation of the Guelph Prince Ernst August and his wife Sophie of the Palatinate, also known as Sophie of Hanover, Osnabrück Palace was built from 1667 onwards and occupied in 1673. Sophie, who had been inspired by her visits to many French castles and gardens, took on the planning and construction of the palace garden with the help of the experienced French master gardener Martin Charbonnier. Here in Osnabrück, elements of the later large baroque garden in Hanover-Herrenhausen were already incorporated, which Sophie also designed together with her gardener Charbonnier. For only six years after moving into Osnabrück Palace, the Guelph family moved to Hanover because Ernst August took over the reign of the Principality of Calenberg in 1679. 


Reinterpretation of the baroque garden 

What POLA sought to achieve in their redesign of the Osnabrück Palace Garden and the associated handling of historically particularly valuable garden and cultural assets was not a reconstruction, but rather a reinterpretation of the baroque garden, which was very much appreciated by the aristocracy at the time. The landscape architects have dared to transform a type of garden that was once radically modern and far ahead of its time, based on mathematical ratios, symmetrical balance and vegetal harmony. 

Entirely in keeping with the baroque style, there is now an interplay between the playful handling of the elements and the rigid order of nature. The lightness of being, which finds expression in an almost musical staging of the circular water feature, becomes the main theme of the new palace parterre. Several waterspouts located at the edge of the fountain field highlight the baroque style of the palace and palace garden. The fountain field itself is now a central place where people meet and interact, inviting all visitors to engage with the element of water in a playful manner, to talk to each other or to simply look at and enjoy the Palace Garden from different positions. 


Outdoor playroom  

As the former playground on the eastern campus had to make way for a student centre, the play pergola on the edge of the central castle axis may now provide a more intimate play experience. Where in earlier baroque gardens metre-high hedges presented visitors with small play and theatre cabinets, known as boscages, a playable climbing frame now reinterprets this special kind of historical garden art. 

‘As the name “play boscage” suggests, the design clearly refers to the archetype of baroque palace gardens. Accordingly, these green rooms with their austere geometric design are situated in the immediate vicinity of the palace and the palace parterre. In the past, the green boscages were used like indoor spaces, serving as places of retreat, event venues or providing playful enjoyment for its visitors,’ explains Jörg Michel, head of POLA Landschaftsarchitekten GmbH in Berlin. 

The open-air playroom in the middle of the Palace Garden provides a wide range of play activities for both young and older children up to the age of twelve. In addition to a sand play area and individual trampolines on coloured play mounds, the play pergola designed by the Brandenburg-based playground equipment manufacturer Spiel-Bau GmbH offers ample opportunities for climbing, sliding, jumping, swinging or running.   

The entire playroom is equipped with a special surfacing system, an impact-attenuating surface made by Procon GmbH, so that all play elements are accessible without barriers. Impact-attenuating surfaces are designed to minimize the impact of falls from playground equipment and fixtures in order to prevent serious injuries and avoid severe health impairments for the users. In accordance with DIN EN 1176, the relevant standard for impact-attenuating surfacing, two different surfacing systems were used in the play area of the Osnabrück Palace Garden. Under the play pergola and around the trampolines, the "Sureplay Safety 50 (40+10)" shock-absorbent surfacing system with a thickness of 50 mm was installed. This surfacing system covers a critical fall height up to a maximum of 1.50 metres. A critical fall height of up to 1.35 metres was specified. Underneath the swings and the nest swing, the "Sureplay Safety 100-S (30+60+10)" surfacing system with a total thickness of 100 mm was installed, covering a critical fall height up to a maximum of 3.26 metres. 

Including the adjacent lawn to the town hall, the children have a play area of approximately 1,400 square metres that they can use. The costs for the play pergola amount to about 260,000 euros. 


Sustainable planning  

A key objective of the Palace Garden’s redesign was to make it more resilient to the impacts of climate change. For example, all asphalted and sealed park paths were de-sealed, more than 40 new, climate-resistant trees were planted, and the ornamental flowerbeds were planted with permanent perennials and grasses instead of not very sustainable seasonal flowering plants. 

Unlike the previous discharge into the public sewage system, the drainage of all surfaces is now exclusively into the adjacent turf areas and areas of vegetation. The rainwater accumulated is thus used to irrigate the areas of vegetation and turf areas or is purified and fed into the groundwater via natural infiltration. 


Background information

The landscaped area of the Palace Garden covers more than 25,000 square metres and extends from the redesigned open spaces of the OsnabrückHalle to the refectory, from "Neuer Graben" to the wall on the "Schlosswall". The centrepiece of the redesign is the new palace parterre, which will become the new centre of the Palace Garden thanks to its playable fountain field with a constantly changing water pattern. The palace parterre is framed by two long benches and two large plant beds. Overall, together with the Ledenhof, which is also in the process of being redesigned, the Palace Garden can be considered a coherent whole. 

The redesign is funded through the federal and state “Lebendige Zentren" (Living Town and City Centres) urban development support programme. Around four million euros went into the redesign, with the city having to pay only one third itself. 


Further information:

POLA Landschaftsarchitekten GmbH 

Neue Schönhauser Straße 16
 10178 Berlin - Germany 

Phone: +49 (0)30 - 240 0099 10



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