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20.06.2011 - Ausgabe: 3/2011

Mülheim an der Ruhr: A sports jungle

Mülheim an der Ruhr is a particularly green town, located on the river and in the heart of the Ruhr region and is traditionally a popular residential town, which is committed to welcoming families.


This successful concept was selected by the Green Town Foundation, which organised the "Green Playgrounds" Competition. From 66 submissions the adjudicators chose the playground concept "Sports Jungle" from Mülheim as one of the winners and invited those involved to the award ceremony in Nuremburg. On 17 September 2010 the winning concept and the five runners-up were presented at the GaLaBau Trade Fair.

"We are delighted with the distinction of being among the five best projects. This shows that we are on the right road with our concepts for playground planning in Mülheim and is at the same time an endorsement of our work. We are now one of the winners!" rejoiced Nina Leffmann of the Office for the Management of Green Spaces and Cemeteries. As chief planner for the Hofackerstraße playground she had played a leading part in the success.

The Hofackerstraße/Hoffmannsweg playground is located on a piece of formerly fallow land, which was “left over” when a regional foot and cycle path had been constructed. Because a deficit in playing areas had already been noted in the subspace development plan in the district, this piece of fallow land was secured in 2004 during the revision of the plan for the use of open spaces as a potential playground area.

After obtaining statistical age data in September 2008 as to the assessment of demand, soil analysis, issue of a building permit and the identification of boundaries of the ground, a Children's Forum was organised and moderated by the office of Uta Schütte-Haermeyer from Dortmund. First of all, 21 five to twelve year-old children took part in an excursion to the future playground and then joined the planning workshop, where ideas were explored, mottos decided, sketches made of the main elements and a model was constructed. The results of this planning workshop were presented on the very same day to representatives from politics, to colleagues from administration and to interested citizens and residents. The reason that the children unanimously chose “Sports Jungle" as the motto for the playground was certainly to a large extent the condition of the piece of fallow land when the children saw it in mid-September 2008.
The wild and adventurous character of the area with its vegetation inviting hide-and -seek and role-play games just had to be kept. The wealth of flora and fauna they discovered there made the children think about nature conservation and then to want to have larger animals there. The children's wishes centred on activities like swinging and climbing. Surprisingly no mention was made of football, but the single element which was mentioned by far the most often was a ropeway, so that the creation of this piece of equipment was decided from the beginning.

The Green Space Management made a provisional estimation of costs for an area of approx. 1,250 m² of 100,000.00 Euro, for which they applied to the City Treasury. Funds were allocated in two parts for two years of activity on the projects.

In 2008 approx. 40,000.00 Euro were allocated for the planning and preparation of the project and about 60,000.00 Euro were allocated in 2009 for the actual construction. In October 2008 a landscape architecture studio from outside, the Büro Teschner from Dülmen, was tasked with the planning and supervision of works.
A large part of the task was to integrate the children's proposals into a design plan. As a final step towards participation, in order to foster identification with the project and to make them feel jointly responsible, this design was presented to the children and interested adults and simultaneously advertised for the acquisition of playground sponsorship.

The political decision to construct the playground was a pure formality. With the tendering process the phase of active construction could finally begin. At the end of 2008 uprooting and clearance works took place on the piece of land, but these were carried out particularly carefully because of the need to retain the jungle character of the area. Existing clearings between vegetation were carefully extended to allow the selected play equipment to be positioned. Narrow aisles between the plants gave the fencing contractors room to work and opened up lines of sight across the area. Only where necessary, that is to say to fence off the industrial and traffic areas, was a fence boundary installed, however, even here the fencing was rather unconventional, to blend with the natural boundaries of the vegetation and the existing trails.

The actual construction of the playground took place in Spring 2009. In the entrance area, which seems really narrow and closed-in towards Hofackerstraße, it was decided to put up something eye-catching to point out the playground, e.g. a carved parrot, which would pick up on the animal theme. The front part of the area, in full sunlight, served for the installation of the toddlers' area, with sand pits, snake basket for hide-and-seek, crawling tunnel and seating for accompanying adults. Recycling bins are also part of this area. On the other hand paved paths and playing areas are not part of the design.
Next to this the desired ropeway is located.
In the back part of the area, which was designed for children of primary school age, a rope landscape has been developed, which once more picks up the motto, for it is strongly reminiscent of lianas. Here there are all sorts of opportunities for climbing, balancing, swinging and see-sawing. The central point of this lay-out is a "palm frond house", which serves the children as look-out and is ideal for hide-and-seek and role-play games. In this climbing landscape there are hidden more carved animals, which recall the jungle, e.g. ape, spider, leopard.
In the hindermost strips of the area the vegetation and with it the character of the area have been left as undisturbed as possible, in this "deep jungle" there are opportunities for imaginative play, something for which the children kept on asking.
In May 2009 all the play equipment was installed, a total of 1,800 m² was developed, and every cent of the construction sum of 100,000.00 Euro had been spent.
In mid-November 2009 there was the first major annual inspection by Dekra.

Playground situation in Mülheim an der Ruhr

"The town has a good 100 public playgrounds, which are distributed across the whole area of the town. More than fifty per cent of the playgrounds are sponsored by patrons. Every year there is investment in at least one major project, comprehensive renovation of existing spaces and new playgrounds in response to demand. Since it was recognised in the last ten years that this work has to be continual to be sustainable, the investment budget for public playgrounds has been increased five-fold. A decisive factor in the provision of finance in connection with play is the great readiness to sponsor projects within this theme. The largest sponsor with regular donations is the Leonhard Stinnes Foundation, without whose means it would be impossible to maintain standards. Regularly every year approximately 70 items of play equipment and other elements are renewed e.g. as part of the purchase of replacements. Generally it is possible by strict controls to document the aging of the material and to manage the purchasing in such a way that the shortfall in equipment leads very quickly to its replacement and there is no long-term loss of the play facility. The major annual inspections, which have been carried out in Mülheim for the last ten years, contribute to this to a considerable extent. The various consultants and technical experts have for some years now had a generally very high regard for Mulheim’s playgrounds.
Apart from the usual participation process, which has for several years now been carried out as a matter of course before the start of construction, Mülheim intends shortly to put in train a play management plan, in order to have a handy method for covering areas in the design of play space and even better to be able to respond to the various aspects of the town's play landscape," says Anke Degner, Deputy Press Spokesperson, City of Mülheim an der Ruhr.

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