Zick-Zack-Zwingli – A playground for young people in Berlin

By Birgit Funke (bwgt e.V.)

Zick-Zack-Zwingli – A playground for young people in Berlin

In 2008, “macht mobil”, the Moabit health network, was founded. Its main aim is to promote movement in the district. Thus it was that the concept of the Moabit movement landscape was developed for Moabit West. All play and movement areas in Moabit West were examined, analysed, assessed and then quality measures were developed within the framework of an overall concept. The key focus here was on promoting movement, play value and target/age groups.

The playground in Zwinglistraße 6 forms part of the Moabit movement landscape and was designated as a play area for children and primarily adolescents. Previously there had been few movement opportunities for them nearby. It was decided that the playground should, on the one hand, offer challenging movement possibilities for the target group of children and youths, and on the other that thanks to the location in an undeveloped area, a very low level of noise should be generated by the playground. When these conditions were taken into consideration, the idea arose of a site (for the first time in Berlin) designed and constructed for parkour, a fashionable sport.

Parkour is generally regarded not so much as a type of (trendy) sport, but rather as a form of movement the aim of which is to reach one place from another as efficiently as possible solely by means of one’s physical abilities. The parkour runner/ traceur (French le traceur: “one who draws a line”) selects his or her own route through urban or natural space, regardless of any supposed structural constraints. He or she tries to overcome any obstacles in their way as efficiently as possible. Control and flow of movement are very much required here. Parkour is therefore also known as the “art of efficient movement”.

For this art of efficient movement to be practised, extensive training is needed, as are corresponding areas for the growing community of parkour runners. In particular, children and young people often inspired by Internet clips require space in a safe environment where they can practise and train, and are also able to watch experienced traceurs.

The Zick-Zack-Zwingli as a venue for parkour is the first of its kind in Berlin.

Surroundings and location

The Zick-Zack Zwingli is situated in a densely populated residential area with a well-developed infrastructure. Nearby institutions, such as the playground under pedagogical supervision in the Ottopark and the Miriam Makeba primary school will be among the users of the play area. It is located in an undeveloped area of closed block structure from the late 19th/early 20th century, which is typical for Berlin. The space between the buildings is delimited at the front right and left and at the rear by approx. 20 m-high firewalls of residential buildings, while on the rear left side an approx. 4 m-high wall forms the boundary of the site. On the rear right side, a firewall of a two-storey building forms the boundary.


The aim of the design was both that the area should reflect the urban character of the surrounding area and the urban character of parkour as a sport, and thus, as an urban space, make a contribution to the surroundings. The basis of the concept are diagonals which, starting from the surrounding buildings, move through the site forming lines and areas that are the basis for walls, edges, elevations and surface elements providing for a variety of uses. At the same time, access to and from the street is achieved through the higher density of the elements to the rear of the undeveloped area.

bwgt e.V. was awarded the German Play Area Prize 2013 for the design of the Zick-Zack Zwingli. “In a very tight space in an area surrounded entirely by urban buildings and in the form of a niche between structures, a play area for young people has been created in Berlin's Zwinglistraße. In a playful manner, it takes up elements and motifs from the building shells and new buildings and uses them to create an original movement amenity. In formal terms, a closed movement sculpture has been created here that resembles an unfinished house or building, while at the same time demonstrating the changes in and ability to change of urban spaces. It is up to the observer to decide whether this is a building still under construction or perhaps one that is being demolished.” (From the jury’s statement).
The Zick-Zack Zwingli does not make use of any conventional play equipment; rather elements and materials were utilised that can be found in the surrounding area and underline the urban character of the space. The equipment, which is intended to make possible experience with many different kinds of materials, ranges from paving (taken from the city) through steps, balustrades, a stone area with different stone materials and elevations, a surface with boulders on a water-resistant covering, to brick walls (a reference to the materials in the vicinity), metal bars and wooden elements on wood shavings. Materials and elements are thus transferred from the street to the enclosed area, and transformed from the urban to the natural. All in all, at the design stage, great emphasis was placed on the elements being as abstract and restrained as possible.

The design of the planned and constructed movement elements is intended to enable them to be used in the greatest possible number of ways. A particular challenge in this respect was ensuring compliance with the DIN playground norms for the demands of parkour and the wishes of its practitioners.

Usage and the promotion of movement

As far as parkour, a fashionable sport, is concerned, the Zick-Zack Zwingli offers new and unusual movement experiences. There is no customary play equipment here, but space and movement elements inviting enthusiasts to climb, balance, jump or watch etc. and giving users the opportunity to experience their own body differently in relation to space and movement.

The offers for movement promotion result both from the basic spatial structure and from the built elements. Arriving from Zwinglistraße, the user is guided via the steps to the area. His or her running movement is interrupted by railings obstructing their direct path. Already the first obstacle is to be overcome. Just like the steps in the entrance area, all the other elements, such as walls, bars, wood and rocks are located diagonally through the space and invite the users to try out the many and varied movement possibilities as they attempt to overcome the different obstacles. Starting with careful exploration and considered movement from one element to the next, the transition to precise leaps is a flowing one. Children and young people from the neighbourhood enjoying their first contact with parkour as well as experienced traceurs discover ways to use and develop their abilities. These include, for example, practising precise jumps, at different intervals close to the ground, before aiming really high. But they also discover forms of movement, such as climbing, balancing, overcoming obstacles and moving below them, swinging, moving hand over hand etc. The range of movement offerings extends from very small, precise ones to great leaps challenging the whole body. Watching the interaction between beginners and professionals is particularly impressive at this facility.

bwgt e.V.

Zick-Zack Zwingli was planned and constructed by the bwgt e.V. association.
bwgt e.V. was founded as an association in 2003. Combining theory and practice, educationalists, sports scientists, specialists in health and planners (architects and landscape planners) cooperate across their disciplines.
bwgt e.V. is committed to promoting health-oriented play, sport and movement offerings, in particular for children and adolescents, but also for adults and senior citizens. The key elements of the work are the moderation, planning, design and construction of movement, play and sport areas, the participation of children, young people, residents and other relevant parties, as well as the evaluation of existing spaces and measures that have been carried out.

Participants in planning

The client is the Mitte district office of Berlin. The future users were involved in all planning phases and there was close cooperation with ParkourOne Berlin. Furthermore, the individual planning phases were presented to and consulted with the working group of the Moabit movement landscape (the Neighbourhood Management, the Office for Nature and Green Spaces, the Youth Welfare Office, the Mitte Children’s and Youth Department, the district management and the violence prevention police officers).

The Zick-Zack Zwingli was built using ERDF funds from the “Social City” initiative.

The total sum invested was € 80,000 gross.



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