Accommodating the differing requirements of freedom of movement and safety

By Martina Schneider, landscape architect and town planner, Member of the Bavarian Chamber of Architects, rockinger und schneider gbr landschaftsarchitektur.stadtplanung

Accommodating the differing requirements of freedom of movement and safety

The relocation of the grammar school meant that the area previously used as the school playground could be reconfigured to become the new centre of the neighbourhood. Two old people's homes are situated close to the square and on the plot of land bordering it to the east a new primary school is planned. The square is to be used as a communal centre both for the existing and for the new facilities and at the same time, as a new inner city square it will expand the network of public open spaces in Fürstenfeldbruck. Once the neighbourhood centre has been developed, a former school building, which stands on the edge of the square, will be a multi-generation house and the headquarters of the Adult Education Centre. In one of the old people's homes it is planned to set up a municipal crèche.

Niederbronner Platz is being developed as a square for all the generations and should become a place where you can stroll or while away a little time and a platform for various activities. An important aim is to preserve the square's peaceful atmosphere. The area under the trees will therefore be kept free of specific uses and offers space for everyday leisure activities. The choice of materials for constructing the new face of the square has been restricted and restful colours have been chosen.

A water feature for Niederbronner Platz has been designed to be the focal point and area for general play. This is going to be the point to attract the children, but adults may feel inclined also to join in the play. The manually driven pumps can be directed through valves and thus generate all sorts of very varied water experiences from its wealth of jets and gargoyles. The water bubbles and sprays, fountains or a spiralling mist of spray are formed and from three metres up in the sky rain down upon those playing below. Because of the clever positioning of the valves and by using all the pumps, all those playing can work together to produce a positively spectacular water display. The water runs over a sculpture made from air-placed concrete and can be dammed up in three water basins at various levels by using one's own tools (stones or bits of wood) and integrated weirs. The fact that individuals are required to cooperate in the play also entices adults to become actively involved. The use of the pumps is incidental exercise, but its main aim is to provide fun.

The idea that adults also like to become involved in playing was quickly confirmed when the project was presented as part of the Day of Architecture. Throughout the afternoon you can see the hustle and bustle around the water feature. Parents take part in their children’s games; older people have a go on the rocking pump or exercise their muscle power on the beam pump to release the three metre high fountain. Not all the local residents are delighted that in the evening the young people stop at the water feature and use Niederbronner Platz as the new meeting point in the inner city. The Municipality holds fast, nevertheless, to the concept of the square being the neighbourhood square for all the generations. The pumps work only until early evening and after that the water supply is cut off by a timer switch.
The construction of the water feature was made possible by the readiness of the firms involved to take part. A sculptor from the Sportstone Company executed the sculpture in air-placed concrete from a clay model we had designed. The pump and jet system with adjustable valves, which was installed, had been brought on to the market only a short time previously by the play equipment manufacturer, Richter.

Older people and playful activity

As well as wanting to involve older people in playful activity, the rockinger und schneider gbr firm of architects asked themselves how it could be managed that very old people, with restricted mobility, could regain enough strength to participate in the community life of the new square. Niederbronner Platz lies directly beside two old people's homes.
Very old people participate in the life of the community principally by observing it. To entice them to use the square, the benches in the area of the water feature were placed so that there is a good view from them to the play activities. This means that the old people can watch the activities while retaining that necessary feeling of being safe, since the benches are far enough away to prevent the observer from becoming directly involved in what is going on.

Since sitting on benches is perceived to be a central aspect of staying in a public area for old people, special care went into the design of the benches. In collaboration with the Michow Company new benches were designed for the project with a raised seating surface and armrests. The firm seat backs give support to the lower back in particular. The seat backs are sufficiently high to let you rest your whole back up to the head on them. If the benches are mounted on concrete plinths, the round shape of the front edges helps the person to stand up, since, when sitting down, the person can put their feet under the seat. Some of the benches are mounted on springs and therefore can be gently rocked. One bench is fitted with pedals to encourage people to exercise the legs.

One part of the entire area is an activity garden, which has been laid out principally for older people. People with restricted motor skills can train their mobility over steps and a ramp covered in bark mulch. As a final touch a balancing beam and two rocking boards supplied by the Michow Company offer the chance to practise keeping your balance. The activity garden is a floral oasis, with raised flowerbeds and scented plants and has been deliberately laid out within sight of the adjoining garden of the children's crèche. This lets the visitor to the garden watch the little ones at play.

A lighting concept for the whole neighbourhood has been worked into the design of the square. This scheme takes account of features of the eye and older people’s altered ability to see. Freedom from glare and the uniform lighting of the square were important factors in the choice of lights. In addition, special elements have been highlighted on the square, to make it possible to recognise acquaintances at night and to have better orientation in the dark. The lighting was considered in relation to the environment as regards wattage. By using light-coloured surfacing materials there is good reflection of light and the luminosity can be comparably small. Warm light colours contribute to more comfort and thus to a more pleasant atmosphere.
As part of a sampling operation several mast lights were tested to meet the needs of the square. We have chosen a mast light from Shreder, which responded best to our requirements because of its directed light distribution. It is planned, as the area is further developed, to equip the paths in the neighbourhood with a uniform type of lighting, to make the streets between the neighbourhood and the main street safer.

Conclusion

The design of public spaces for very old people and people with restricted mobility requires in particular a good sequence of spaces, as well as precise planning of the details. If we are to make it possible for the various generations to mingle, we have to take account of the differing needs as regards freedom of movement and safety. Crossing points and zoning have to be worked out so that people can mingle without conflict.

However, together with meeting all the needs and requirements, the communally used spaces must above all offer one thing: they must give pleasure to those who use them.


Principal
Große Kreisstadt Fürstenfeldbruck

Project management for Große Kreisstadt Fürstenfeldbruck
Martin Kornacher, Head of the Municipal Planning and Building Control Office
Markus Reize, Head of Town Planning Department

Town planning, neighbourhood development, project management and participatory procedures:
Manuela Skorka, architect and town planner, Neuried
Martina Schneider, landscape architect and town planner, Munich

Implementation strategy:
Martina Schneider, landscape architect and town planner, Munich
Construction supervision with: Anna Gabriele Werner, Munich

Lighting design: Prof. Wambsganß, FH Rosenheim, Martin Klingler, Moosbach, Austria

Construction planning refurbishment boys' school: Büro Stollenwerk, Fürstenfeldbruck

Funding and awards
Exemplary project of the Supreme Building Authority for the development of methods of collaboration between public and private actors, lebenfindetinnenstadt (life is found in the inner city), 2006-2007

Research project of the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning as part of the ExWoSt (experimental, residential and urban construction) research procedure in the research field "Innovations for Urban Districts Suitable for Families and Old People", 2007-2009

Promotion of the construction project by the Government of Upper Bavaria as part of "Active Town and District Centres"

Best Practice Award 2010, project example, "Public Space" in the project, Nauen and Demographic Change in Bavaria, Supreme Building Authority in the Bavarian State Ministry of the Interior
 

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