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19.04.2022 - Ausgabe: 2/2022

Playing and relaxing in the neighbourhood

By Sonja Griebenow (Linnea Landschaftsarchitektur)

© Linnea Landschaftsarchitektur und Oktavia Ostermann

Starting point: An aging residential estate. Between 2010 and 2020, the Central Supplementary Pension Fund of the City of Hanover (zvk) refurbished the "Haydnstraße" district in Hanover Bothfeld in sections and re-designed large parts of its outdoor facilities. 

The estate dates from the 1960s and 1970s and comprises 260 residential units. The buildings are very dense with up to ten-storey blocks of flats. A parking garage is framed in the centre, the roof of which has been used in part as a playground since the 1970s. The tenants of the estate are very diverse. In addition to older people, there are also many families with children living here. There are almost no vacancies - but there is an ever greater need for outdoor recreation and play areas.

The rooftop playground was in poor condition at the beginning of the project and had to be closed frequently due to technical problems with the drainage. There were no other play facilities.


Open space concept as an opportunity - first think of the overall concept, then the individual components

The client invested time and resources to start the process with an overarching open space concept for the entire neighbourhood. This concept encompassed all the building phases that were to be redeveloped in the following years, so that an overarching goal-setting and conceptual planning was possible. In addition, the creation of the open space concept was accompanied by a participative campaign process for the tenants.

As part of the analysis, the assessment of the provision of play facilities was based on both the legal requirements and current needs. Housing developers are legally obliged to provide play facilities for young children. Older children are supposed to use public playgrounds in nearby surroundings. For this residential area, however, it became apparent that for children of primary school age, public playgrounds in the surrounding areas are far away or difficult to reach (due to separating main roads, among other things). Therefore, zvk decided to go beyond the legal obligation and create an offer on the estate which also considers the needs of the older children.


Frolicking and playing, also for the grown-ups

Of the few areas available for open space use, one is located at the edge of the complex. This was chosen for more noise-intensive play and exercise activities for older children, as there are no adjacent balconies or bedrooms. 

The resulting "Laher Kirchweg Playground" offers sufficient space for basketball play, a table tennis table, swinging and balancing facilities and a larger rotating and climbing apparatus. The excavated material was reinstalled as a noise barrier to the road, creating a more protected space and significantly reducing road noise. The resulting embankment was included in the play offer. This playground could already be opened in the course of the first construction phase in 2016.


Space for the little ones on the roof of the parking garage

Far away from street noise and passing traffic, a space for young children and their parents was created on the site of the centrally located single-storey parking garage. Quiet and sunny, with lots of plants - an oasis in the city. 

Prior to the redesign which started in 2018, the trees that had grown up over decades and were far too large for the roof's statics first had to be removed so that the waterproofing and drainage could then be renewed. 

The new play facilities include a trampoline, a swing and climbing equipment with slide and sand play - many wishes of the residents could be realised. 

A second area on the roof provides opportunities for all residents to meet and relax with sun loungers, picnic tables and benches.

In terms of design, this was captured in two curved, interconnected ellipses. The clear forms offer an attractive image when viewed from above the surrounding apartment blocks. 

For static reasons, the overall structure was limited to 50-60 centimetres in height and a defined maximum surface load. This was a particular challenge for the installation of playground equipment, which could not simply be placed in concrete foundations. Slab foundation became necessary, as well as a precise check of the resulting surface loads.

In addition, a retention roof was installed for the new planting, which retains rainwater and makes it available for the vegetation. In this way, a colourful and insect-friendly shrub and perennial planting could be realised with a manageable maintenance effort, which stimulates the senses of both the children and adults while at the same time providing them with nature experience - which is just as important as the play offers themselves.


Vertical play connects

But how to integrate and connect the playground on the roof? In the existing building, there was a hidden staircase or ramp at each end, which were also heavily overgrown with shrubs and climbing plants. Besides, the roof was difficult to spot and not experienceable from below. First, the vegetation was cut back to create more openness. But this alone was not enough.

A "play gallery" was developed on the east gable, which makes playful use of the height difference to the roof: The height difference of approximately 4 metres can be climbed and slid down again. The colourful design of the play gallery attracts attention from afar and draws attention to what is provided on the roof. If one does not want to climb, one can take the adjacent stairs, which, in combination with the gallery, look much better than before. 

The height of 4m exceeds the permissible fall height for conventional fall protection coverings. Therefore, the gallery was fully enclosed with a transparent wooden slaths, behind which vertical climbing structures lead upwards over several levels. The slide is also enclosed (tube slide). In this way, a lot of play value could be created in a small space.

With a custom-made unit of this kind, many detailed questions have to be solved. For example, precisely fitting openings had to be created in the parapet of the parking garage and the upper connection of the unit had to be solved in terms of safety. The construction stands in itself, which avoided the difficult question of a statically effective connection to the parking garage. In addition, the client still wanted the possibility to close the roof play area, which required the integration of a fence and gate system.



Open spaces and their quality of stay and use have a significant influence on the overall attractiveness of a residential district. All too often, open space design in residential districts is thought of in terms of building sections and buildings, and thus too small-scale.

The play opportunities are an essential factor in this. Placed in the wrong place (often unavoidable in a closer context), they lead to conflicts. If they are thought of in small parts, the coherence and the play quality of the individual elements are often missing. It's not necessarily the seesaw animal in front of every house that makes children happy.

An open space concept as a master plan across the largest possible district context is suitable for arranging and connecting different building blocks in a meaningful way and also offers the possibility of creating a consistent design identity and orientation. The existing open spaces can be used according to their different potentials and functions can be placed in the right place - e.g. more noise-intensive play away from noise-sensitive areas.

Also very important are the possibilities that are offered with regard to the bundling of investments: The individual investments can be placed in a larger overall context, which allows more leeway or, through prioritisation, also a "highlight", which would not be possible with a building-specific approach.

In this respect, the effort is worthwhile, according to the motto: First think of the overall project, then of the individual building blocks. This applies first and foremost to districts owned by one owner. But isn't such a concept even feasible across properties of different owners?


Further information:

Client: Central Pension Fund of the City of Hannover (zvk)
Work phases 1-8 according to HOAIBearbeitung
 Overall measure: 2015 - 2020, in several construction phases

Laher Kirchweg playground section: Matthias Niestroj Garten- und Landschaftsbau GmbH 

Roof area section: Retention roof and intensive roof greening, furniture and playground incl. play gallery: Kretschmer GmbH, Garten-, Landschafts- und Sportplatzbau 

Roof greening: Retention roof system by Optigrün

Play Gallery: custom-made by Spiel-Bau GmbH


Architectural practice: 

Linnea Landscape Architecture

Appelstraße 20

30167 Hanover

Phone: 0511/56909010

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