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16.02.2011 - Ausgabe: 1/2011

The trend towards rope


Trends in the computer trade are very short-lived. In the trade for playground equipment and recreational facilities trends tend to last longer. But what is a trend? A trend (from the verb 'to trend' to run in a determined direction, to turn or to shift) is nothing more than a change in direction. Trends can be found in widely different fields of life - from economy and politics to consumer behaviour - and in different intensities, from purely superficial phenomena to deep-running, sustainable currents. The description and boundary conditions allow a forecast to be made of future developments. Trends are very difficult to actually measure however. Their future development can sometimes be estimated but only partially influenced.
At the GaLaBau trade fair held in Nuremberg, Germany, some manufacturers of playground equipment agreed that rope play equipment and climbing nets represent a trend in this trade. At the trade fair itself, no other immediate expert opinions were available as there were no manufacturers of this kind of equipment represented. So can this really be a trend? The trade journal Playground@Landscape, expert magazine for the trade and always up to date with new ideas, asked for further opinions.

Andre Winkmann, Tri-Poli oHG:
"I believe that there is a very clear trend towards rope play equipment. One indication of this is, for example, that a complete section of standards referring to space nets and therefore, rope play equipment has been created.
There are several reasons for this trend:
Low follow-on costs - maintenance outlay is low and inexpensive. When nets are regularly retensioned they can last for up to 20 years or more.
Safety - Even when exactly the opposite is often claimed, ropes and climbing nets are among the safest pieces of playground equipment. Children can clearly see and calculate the danger so instinctively hold on tight. But even when they do occasionally fall, they land in the net. This provides a high level of safety. Even small children can easily recognise this and behave correspondingly. Serious accidents often occur where the danger cannot be recognised at first glance.
Versatility - a space net offers many possibilities. The children can let their fantasy run free. Nearly anything goes: Climbing, catching, role play, hanging at airy heights, and, and, and …
Low space requirement - A large number of children can play at the same time next to each other and above each other in a space net. In this way, a relatively large number of children can play on a relatively small area at the same time and they play with each other, not after each other. Naturally, this only applies to real, three-dimensional space nets.
For this reason, the trend towards rope play equipment will definitely be long-lasting. Since the 1970s, when the first rope play equipment was introduced on playgrounds, sales figures have shown a steady increase. Here at the Tri-Poli Seilspiel company we are happy with this positive development!"

Christian Schierenbeck, Seilfabrik Ullmann GmbH:
"Now and again I remember the playgrounds of my childhood at the beginning of the 1970s. Typically, there was a sandpit, a seesaw, a double-tire swing and a free-standing slide as well as now and again double bars. It was only much later that towers, podiums, connecting bridges and paths or even adventure playgrounds appeared. Ropes, rope equipment or space nets were real rarities.
Today, every manufacturer has ropes in their sales programme. Many perhaps have ropes only as ramp wires, climbing nets or guardrails, but others use the construction elements provided by ropes for bird's nest swings, jungle bridges, climbing pyramids and towers or design-oriented rope landscapes as well as structures which are filigree in appearance but which have high requirements on coordination and balance.
The possibilities of rope construction are very varied and ropes have also been used in just as wide a variety of ways. This development has increased greatly over the last years, or at least this is the feeling from the point of view of our company. This applies to both the domestic and export markets. For this reason we do not consider rope play equipment to be a short-term fashion trend. Ropes and nets have gained a fixed place in the comprehensive product range of playground equipment and will continue to follow future developments and fulfil new requirements."

Michael Roth, Huck Seiltechnik GmbH:
"Rope play equipment is enjoying increasing popularity with children, but also with child supervisors, community authorities and leisure experts as they are very varied in their design and layout and offer a variety of play possibilities. Climbing nets, network tunnels, suspension bridges, large walking nets and many other products in the wide Huck product range can be combined to for small or large climbing and play landscapes. Due to the material used which has perfect optic and haptic properties - including high-quality timber elements and different coloured ropes with high-quality plastic connectors - and the many different ways of combining the single components such as the original bird's nest 'Huck Vogelnest®', hammocks, roundabouts, swings and balancing ropes, allow all and any wishes to be fulfilled and a playing landscape to be created which is suitable for all age groups. In this way, Hick offers products ranging from mini-playground equipment for infants up to rope net pyramids for teenager fun.
Rope play equipment also promotes of children's motor skills and psychological development: Safe free climbing increases their dexterity, provides training for improved risk evaluation, hones the sense of balance and livens fantasies, for example, when they set sail in the pirate tower or swing from 'vine to vine' in Tarzan fashion in the bird's nest trees. Playing together, including both periods of activity and rest, also promotes the team spirit and behaviour towards others.
Based on high-quality UV-resistant materials and the simple maintenance and repair involved, costs for playground operators are minimised. A large part of the connecting components used are available in two-part design so that even the smallest rope segment can be repaired. This does away with cost-intensive replacement of the complete net."

Heiko Patzer, smb Seilspielgeräte GmbH:
"Through integration of computer technology in playground equipment today, it is attempted to satisfy the apparent demand of today's youngsters for this kind of entertainment and motivation. Only the future will show how long-lasting this trend will be and whether this step is absolutely necessary in order to pull the children away from their computer consoles and enjoy a minimum of exercise. We are convinced that even today, there is nothing more exciting and challenging for children than to make use of natural 'products' and to test their limits climbing, hanging and jumping while gaining experience for their future lives. In order to be enjoy a game, it should not be absolutely necessary to read a set of instructions before starting to play. We need to do that in real live all day and all our lives.
Intuitive thoughts, processes and self-experience promote the mental and physical development processes of children. Based on these facts we are sure that rope play equipment will always have its place in playgrounds and that the 'trend' will continue for a long time to come. For more than 30 years now we have occupied ourselves with rope and have realised again and again how variable this material is. The flexibility and resilience of the rope creates particularly high challenges for the attention and motor skills of the user. The well thought-out construction of the rope play equipment offers children the opportunity to make use of the ropes only up to the point where they feel safe and secure. It is particularly this special property which makes the equipment attractive, not only in the sense of playing value, but also from the safety aspect which allows construction of rope systems of up to 10 metres high. The development process is also continuing for rope equipment. This can be seen in the technically improved and safer connection elements and in the different, modern design variations. The most important material with regard to quality of play still remains the same however - a rope!"

Maria Molina, Corocord Raumnetz GmbH:
"40 years of rope play equipment: A revolution on the playground: As Conrad Roland started development of space nets in 1970, he probably didn't think that his invention would one day bring about a sustainable change to child's play at the playground. At the start of the 1970s, standard equipment included a swing, a tower and a slide - until the entrance of the rope circus. With its rope structure, open from all sides, the space-forming climbing net represented a real novelty. Even playground planners were immediately enthusiastic about this new concept - between 1971 and 1980 alone, 369 pieces of this new equipment were sold. The cornerstone for global success had been laid. Up until today, more than 10,800 Corocord rope playground structures have been installed on playgrounds and school yards worldwide. Further innovative play concepts have been added to the classic rope circus space nets invented by the company founder. These include gigantic structures such as the "Heaven's Bridge" installed at the end of 2010 in Prague, Czech Republic, which has an area of an unbelievable 3.300 m², but also small space-miracles such as the new arched space nets and the individually combinable elements of the Corocord rope course. Today, Corocord rope play equipment forms an integral part of any playground providing active design elements and magic attractions. It opens up a variety of interaction possibilities for children such as climbing, swinging, sliding, jumping and balancing. In this way even the smallest infants learn spatial orientation and parents can rely on the use of Corocord play equipment being especially beneficial and at the same time safe for their children's development. During design and construction of the elements, our engineers have given special priority to ergonomics and safety aspects. The proportions of the equipment for example, as well as the sizes of rope used, are coordinated with the individual capabilities of each user. In addition, Corocord uses specially manufactured ropes with a strong steel core sheathed in a high-quality cover made of polyamide yarn. Inductive melting of the cover layer onto the steel strands provides the ropes with a particularly good durability and at the same time, provides a pleasing, non-slip surface.“

Photos: Berliner Seilfabrik

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