By Dipl. Ing. Alexander Richter (Deputy Head of the Garden, Cemetery and Forestry Department of the City of Düsseldorf)
Playing with water fascinates children. When Ulrich Wolf, former Head of the Garden, Cemetery and Forestry Office in Düsseldorf, gained this insight, he decided to develop a new type of playground. From 1955 onwards, a total of nine large water playgrounds were built in the green spaces of Düsseldorf, which enjoyed great popularity and were soon also built in other large cities in Germany, all of them based on the Düsseldorf model.
The water play areas were all designed, developed and built by the planning department and the locksmith's workshop of the garden department. The water play area with water-spraying climbing and seating play equipment was supervised by an employee of the garden office. Therefore a one-storey flat-roofed building was available with toilets and an attached shelter. In the immediate vicinity there was a sand playground, sunbathing and playing fields.
Refurbishment and further expansion
After the water playgrounds had been established since the 1950s in densely populated urban districts as alternatives to outdoor swimming pools, the first technical corrections became necessary at the end of the 1970s. In the founding phase, safety aspects played a relatively minor role in the planning of playgrounds compared to today. Over the years, it became clear that the lack of fall protection under playground equipment increased the risk of accidents for children. At first, attempts were made to reduce the height of the playground equipment and to allow the later installation of elastic fall protection slabs. The principle of "low-maintenance" spray nozzles was consistently maintained.
A first innovative break in the rather homogeneous design of Düsseldorf's water playgrounds took place on the occasion of the 1987 Federal Garden Show in Südpark.
The playground on the eastern edge of Südpark was designed as an "energy playground". The idea was to teach children about water, wind and solar energy. For this purpose, the facility was equipped with water wheels, windmills and solar cells that could be operated by the children themselves. Over the decades, the playground became a popular recreational facility that was also known beyond the region. However, most of the equipment had to be dismantled later - also due to the changed safety requirements for playgrounds. The adjacent raft pond had already been out of use for some time.
For this reason, the garden department planned and converted the former "energy playground" into a new water landscape with an attached climbing arena and rolling area.
Redesign of the water playground Südpark / Vor dem Deich (Water play, climbing and pump track)
Since its renovation, the playground connects three different areas with each other. In the upper area - at the level of the dike – there is the water playground. Here, the innovative design of the 1980s has been preserved as a testimony to former times and has been technically brought up to date. The characteristic clinker and concrete construction was preserved, as were the flowing gutters. In the course of the renovation, the municipal authorities renewed the entire water technology and equipment. From the dike level, the water flows downwards in a cascade-like manner, where various water spray elements are located.
The water playground has its own independent water and power supply. The water supply is controlled via timers and weather sensors. At times of use, there is always enough water flowing, while the supply stops automatically outside the tides and in bad weather.
In order to connect the water playground and the climbing arena, a water mud area was created, which is especially aimed at younger children. It is equipped with water mud tables and has a pump that can be reached without barriers. In addition, there are various seating areas. A ramp allows easy access with prams or wheelchairs.
A long tube slide leads from the water mud area down to the climbing arena with sand play area. The centrepiece of this part is a large climbing and balancing facility. It is equipped with a variety of functions and combines different levels of difficulty for both younger and older children.
Opposite, on the shore of the dike lake, another sandy area has been created. Here you will find various swings designed for different age groups. The orientation of the swing seats allows a beautiful view of the lake.
A large pump track rolling area, the second of its kind in Düsseldorf, has been built on the site of the former raft pond. In its shape, the former raft pond remains recognisable. The garden department has built a curved asphalt layer on top of it, creating the roller arena, which has been designed to be low-threshold. It can be used with scooters, skateboards and BMX bikes, as well as inline skaters, bobby cars and running bikes.
Trampolines have been installed on the grassy area next to it, which can also be used by wheelchair users. In addition, there is a permanently installed slackline for balancing.
The total costs for the playground renovation amount to about 1.2 million euros. From this amount, about 900,000 euros were financed by the urban development funding. With the help of the urban master plan for playgrounds 2020, the pump track roller arena was financed with 320,000 euros.
Redesign of the water playground in the Volksgarten (Playground Emmastrasse 2.0)
Another redesign of a water playground took place in the Volksgarten in Düsseldorf. Under the title "Emmastraße 2.0", the entire Emma Street play area in the Volksgarten has been combined. The area thus functions as both a playground and a water playground. First and foremost, the water playground was redesigned in the first construction area. The work began in mid-March 2019. After completion in July 2019, the modernisation of the playground to the west began in a second construction area. The citizens were involved in the new planning of the playground, which was built 30 years ago for the Federal Garden Show. In July 2018, the planners of the Garden, Cemetery and Forestry Office developed new ideas for the future design of the playground together with parents, children and interested parties within a participation process.
Swinging, climbing and splashing under palm trees
The playground in the midst of the Volksgarten invites children to playing, splashing and frolicking in the sand. A large red dragon is sitting there, moving around in areas, that are quite unusual for this species. However, the dragon is the centre of the newly designed water playground in the Volksgarten. Occasionally ejecting water from its mouth and nostrils, the climbing sculpture is very popular among the little adventures. In addition to the dragon, various play activities invite visitors to play in the cool water. Footbridges lead from the red dragon over a watercourse to the new "overturning" pirate ship on the sandy area. In the water belt, children are enabled to both dam up the blue water and let it flow. Various jets, fountain bouncers, water and splash pumps as well as damming channels also invite children to splash and play with water.
Picnic tables provide space for social gatherings in all play areas. The sand chill-out area between the water playground and the balloon meadow has been retained. Artificial palm trees and wooden loungers create a gentle transition to the open park area. The toilet house on the grounds was painted thematically in line with the likewise red but smaller dragon called Coconut, who stands opposite his "big brother". A climbing combination and Düsseldorf's first free-fall slide attract many little adventurers. Two playhouses are connected by suspension bridges and equipped with sand play equipment, such as a sand lift or a sand hut. In the toddlers' area, there is a slide for the youngest children as well as a sand mud area that can also be accessed by wheelchair. A sand play table with a swinging pump that can be accessed from underneath offers the possibility of barrier-free play. Another special feature is the quadruple swing with toddler and partner swings, on which parents can swing back and forth with their children. In addition to the two playhouses, also the seesaws, the bouncy plates and the revolving carousel have been preserved. The entire facility follows a cheerful colour concept in mint-turquoise, yellow and orange. A staircase with a ramp provides barrier-free access.
The conversion measure was financed with about 600,000 € by the master plan for playgrounds of the state capital of Düsseldorf.
Redesign of the Garath water playground ("Air-Land-Sea")
The tradition of water playgrounds in Düsseldorf was continued in August 2021. Thus, the tenth water playground was created on Peter-Behrens-Straße in the centre of the Garath district.
Here, an integrative, all-year-round water play offer has been implemented. The theme of the playground is "Air - Land - Sea". The motto visualises the cycle of water - from the rising water from the sea to the sky via clouds, from which the rain falls back down to earth. This gives rise to three different play areas. Paths and smaller squares invite children to linger and provide space for smaller children to ride their scooters or running bikes.
Experiencing the "Air - Land – Sea” theme
In the "Air" play area there is a classic climbing device in the form of an airship. Children can climb on it, climb into and sit in the rocking pilot's cockpit. Around the airship there are clouds. They also invite children to climb - but in the wet. Built-in spray nozzles create a fine mist that envelops the airship.
The "Land" area symbolises streams and rivers where the rain collects and flows towards the sea. For this purpose, a "mountain" with a river course has been created on the playground, which leads the water down several gullies and past natural stone boulders. During play, the children can dam up the water and divert it with weirs. The river course is surrounded by a sandy area that invites them to muddy around. The children can draw water from several swan pumps. Next to it there is a lighthouse that invites children to climb, slide and observe.
The "Sea" play area has large fixed wave crests. Water jets are built into the floor. The children can test their balance on built-in surfboards and feel the water in their faces. The surfboards can also be played on without water. Outside the water playground season, children can try out scooters or inline skates on the wave crests. There is also a double swing attached to the area.
The construction of the playground cost about € 490,000 and was co-financed by the state programme Social City.
As a result of the new planning concepts, the aspect of high water consumption and the associated costs were also critically examined. Together with Stadtwerke Düsseldorf and external specialist planners, the garden department developed a water-saving control technology that is relatively low-maintenance and has been automated. Since then, fresh water consumption has been significantly reduced with the help of an electronic push-button control and timers. Deteriorated piping systems were completely renewed as part of the conversion measures, which additionally increased the investment costs.
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