Themed playgrounds in Vienna: Planning is everything

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Themed playgrounds in Vienna: Planning is everything

Before planning begins, agreement is reached with the political body commissioning the project regarding how this participation process will be carried out. After the conditions, including the schedule, have been established, the process can start. This is headed up by external contractors or organisations (e.g. planning offices, area renewal office).

The participation, that is, the taking into consideration of feasible and financeable wishes and ideas, takes place in at least three stages:

1. The conditions are presented to the citizens/children and the desired contents (not planning proposals as such!) are identified (e.g. in workshops). The ideas and wishes are then worked out in a preliminary draft. The goal is to identify the needs of the later “users”. The question is e.g.: “What would I like to do in the area?”, “Which functions should be available?” Movement (climbing, jumping, crawling, sliding, running …), peaceful areas, being creative (sand, water play), open areas (running), meeting points (seating areas) and not “What should the play equipment look like?” The topic itself is selected by children/youths too (e.g. pirates, fire brigade, train and railway, lighthouse and ship etc.).

2. The preliminary draft is presented to the children and feedback on the interim planning stage is obtained and integrated into the planning.

3. The final result, the draft, is presented in a final presentation. The identified needs and wishes are transformed into concrete ideas. Using the ideas and needs, a fundamental concept can then be created, which serves as the basis for planning.

The involvement of the public in decision-making processes and the identification of park users with the park have e.g. led to less vandalism. The children’s sense of responsibility towards the new park facilities is strengthened if they are involved in the planning. As they work together with us, they have more respect for what has resulted from their ideas/wishes.

When playgrounds are designed or redesigned, an attempt is made to find a theme that suits the location, in order to underline its uniqueness, and this leads to planning and development that is specific to the location. Additionally, new play equipment, which is not yet in any catalogue, is developed in cooperation with the companies producing such equipment.


Max Winter Park water playground: Following the closure of the former children’s open-air swimming pool, the opportunity arose to expand and optimise the Max Winter Park. In future, water as an element will be able to be used playfully in a different way, in an area with water play equipment. In the citizens’ participation process, the play functions, which were absent from the park or too little represented, were identified in collaboration with children and young people of all ages. “Water” as a theme is reflected in the play equipment: Play hills offer the attractive framework for the new play equipment and symbolise the “mainland”. On one of the hills there is a lookout tower with slide and a watercourse, which ends in a sand/mud zone. Between this and another hill, a “fortress” offers many and varied functions, such as climbing, role playing and others. In the generous play area, which represents a body of water, a ship steers towards the “mainland”. In the area of the water play equipment, the wave movement of the water is represented by different shades of blue in the impact-absorbing surfaces.

Water Tower water playground: After the completion of the underground drinking water container at the foot of the historical water tower on the Wienerberg, the surface of the container has also been redesigned. The aim was to make the water container area of 15,000 m² accessible to the public and create a water experience world for play, fund and recreation. The park landscape is determined in many different ways by the element water, with a spring on an elevation, waterfalls, watercourses and ponds. Varied possibilities for play are also offered, as well as information and knowledge, but also relaxation and contemplation. The different paths followed by Vienna’s water are thematised in the new park landscape: the natural path via the watercourse and the manmade one via the aqueduct. From the spring the water flows down into an aqueduct and, at its end, into the play water tower, a miniature reproduction of the original, which can be admired only a hundred metres away. The natural path of the water passes via two waterfalls from its spring to a lake, which flows into a small stream. At its banks and in several small bays, there are play areas for experimentation with water. This stream flows into the large play lake, where the two rope ferries invite the children to play. This is connected to the sand-and-water “Gatschzone” (mud area), where foot and full showers are offered for washing. Specially created sun beds “float” above the grass sea of the facility. They are in the form of boats, thus underlining the character of the water park.

Pretschgasse “Train and railway” In the area devoted to the park in the 11th district, between Pretschgasse and Am Kanal, a playground with the motto “Train and railway” has been created. The Austrian Federal Railways tracks that run nearby inspired the design of the themed playground. With the help of the area renewal office and the team from “Balu und Du”, the wishes and ideas of the children (neighbouring school) and local residents were taken into consideration and integrated. A meandering path, as a metaphor for the tracks, structures the area, thus creating two entry points. Benches, shaded by a pergola, and two signals with knobs for hanging up jackets or backpacks, accompany the route and symbolise the railway station. A climbing combination of water tower and crane, inspired by freight traffic, offers a slide and other possibilities for climbing (climbing rope, climbing pole, net, climbing grips). Three wooden seating platforms invite the children to linger a while and look on. A watercourse made from boulders runs from the highest point of the modelling into a sand play area with playhouses and balance beams. A basket swing and carousel complete the play offering.

Küniglberg western playground: The existing playground no longer corresponded to the safety requirements and was to be redesigned at the request of the children’s and youth parliament. Most of the play equipment was newly developed to well reflect the “western town” theme. The course of a river with various possibilities for being dammed, which flows into a combined sand and mud area, is the main feature of the town. A water tower invites children to climb and slide. And when it comes to rodeo riding, the children can give a try and then “recover” in comfortable hammocks. Also on offer are a basket swing, a locomotive with carriage and “spring horses”. So-called saddle seats give the children the feeling they are riding, and encourage them to sit together and communicate. In the course of the second development stage in autumn 2010, a “western town setting” was added to the playground, i.e. there is a sheriff’s tower, a shop and a saloon, with different tempting possibilities for play and climbing. A life-size horse makes for that real “western feeling”.

Ebner-Eschenbach Park- “Magic Forest”: This started with the desire to add several pieces of equipment and more space to play to the existing playground for small children. A letter to the locals (kindergarten, young users of the park), with a request to select from three themes, led the resulting “magic forest”. Taking into consideration the required play values of the equipment, this theme flowed into the design. In the previous area for small children, there are sand and mud zones with “spring animals” from the wood for them to sit on. A gingerbread house and tree platform will be constructed around the trunk of the centrally located maple tree. In the extended sloping area, there is a basket swing for small children, a play tower with slide, a fireman’s pole and a climbing wall, a wobbling spider to sit on and a spider’s web for climbing. All this is supplemented with mushrooms and toadstools and two carved elf figures, further emphasising the desired “magic forest” theme.


More information:
DI Monika Weichselberger
MA 42 - Wiener Stadtgärten
Dezernat 5 - Neues Grün
Referat Planung 4 – Bezirke 12., 13. u. 23.
Dresdnerstraße 87
1200 Vienna


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