Dense urban structure with varied public spaces

By Gabriella Zaharias (zaharias landschaftsarchitekten (landscape architects))

Dense urban structure with varied public spaces

“Man only plays when he is in the fullest sense of the word a human being, and he is only human when he plays” (Schiller: Letters upon the Aesthetic Education of Man).

After being released from military ownership in the 1990s, the 39.5 hectare area of land that was the Waldmann-Stetten barracks became available for development as a new residential quarter. Superbly located between the popular Munich district of Schwabing and the Olympiapark, the new ‘Am Ackermannbogen’ town quarter is being constructed in four stages with approximately 2,200 flats for approximately 4,800 residents, approximately 500 jobs and with various infrastructure and care facilities. The fourth and final construction stage is currently in the process of being completed.

As the result of a design competition, large multi-storey residential buildings are being erected and alternated with smaller townhouses constructed by private and public property developers as well as housing associations and construction groups. The urban development project uses the motto ‘Compact, Urban, Green’: condensed residential housing construction, embedded in generously-sized, green open areas and connected to the hilly landscape of the Olympic grounds. The new town quarter was designed to be family, children and pensioner friendly and combines the functions of living, working and leisure. It offers various useful play, activity and recreational areas for all age groups.

The 2.7 hectare district park presented here  consists of ‘Rodelhügel (sledging hills) with underground storage’ and ‘Hügel Nord’ (North Hill), and is a  part of the 9.7 hectare large public areas in the new town quarter. It connects to the housing development in the west and north and joins it with the Olympiapark. As part of the green feature it includes cycle and footpaths and integrates the project ‘Solare Nahwärme’ (solar local heat) into the topography.

 

Landscapes for playing and recreation

The park’s topography has been heavily modelled. The Rodelhügel and Hügel Nord landscape sculpture picks up the organically-formed modelling of the Olympiapark and cuts all the ‘built’ elements in this natural form in a clear architectural language like a hot knife through butter. The emerging positive shape of the Rodelhügel cone is mirrored in the hollow play area with arena in a negative shape which is projected into the depths. Under the Rodelhügel are the warm water storage tanks for the solar local heating supplies for the neighbouring residential area.

The pre-existing tree population at the  Ackermannstraße was preserved as much as possible and supplemented with 84 new trees. The park landscape has the character of an open meadow with groups of trees and individual trees. It continues the theme of pine tree planting as per the Olympiapark arrangement. The meadows next to the paths are mown regularly, and twice a year on the steep slopes. A flower meadow rich in different species has developed in the interim. Low pastures were planted in the passage to the residential area’s open spaces.

Here you can do more than just use the playgrounds available in the play and recreational areas; you can experience the landscape direction anew over and over again by, for example, exploring the flower meadows where you can disappear in the high grass, observe flowers, grass, bugs and butterflies; picnic in the shade of the trees; pluck apples from the tree, and find new colours, scents, views and hiding places.

 

Playgrounds in the town landscape

Playgrounds with different content and a selection of activities for different age groups have been inserted into this diverse and playable green infrastructure, and are linked with one another via the cycle and footpath system. The environment near the residential areas always has a small children’s playground with a sandpit and smaller play equipment. Further afield, the playground facilities are for older children, teenagers and adults. It’s quicker to discover everything by bicycle than by foot, and the entire area is car-free and safe. You can quickly see who is playing football in the large meadow, who is currently vying to be champion on the five-a-side football pitch, or if your good friend has already saved you a seat on the swings. Play table tennis or refine your climbing skills. The cool kids sit at the top of the hill and watch the world beneath them without being seen themselves. You can smell the grass, the trees, hear the insects, feel the wind or the sun and sometimes you’ll get wet when it suddenly starts to rain.

Playing together in the playgrounds surrounding the Rodelhügel is made possible by areas divided by moving terrain. The lowered playgrounds in the valley are divided into two sections by a ridge, and are joined in a playful and conceptual manner by steps and a high path. The urge to move around and communicative play are kept separate and yet overlap each other.

The noisy and movement-rich play area is located alongside the road and comprises a football field with terraces, a street ball court and a three metre high climbing wall. The climbing wall is made on site using shotcrete and has the same structure as natural rocks. Climbing takes place without a rope and at a height that allows the climber to jump off safely. An overhang challenges the climbers to hold their own at even the difficult spots. These places are occupied primarily by teenagers – this is where they are furthest from the gaze of the adults, yet in a visible, safe place. This is where they can really let loose with their need to exercise, team spirit and energy.

The ‘communicative’ play area faces a housing construction using a recess protected by modelling.  Originated with the motto ‘Weigh and Fly’, the area boasts a hexagonal swing, a tractor wheel swing, large turntables, kidney-shaped bowls for lying and sitting in. A five-metre long curved slide snakes its way down from the slope. The ascent consists of uneven high steps made from concrete blocks and natural stone. Equipment made from natural materials was selected for the playground facility: Wood, stone, concrete, steel with natural surfaces.

The arena has around 90 seats and a round stage in the middle for theatre shows and events, so in addition to being a bustling playground, it is also a popular space for communication and area of retreat. These spaces are played in and enjoyed most of all by young and growing children – age group 4-12 years old. The youngest children, in particular, appreciate the challenge of ascending the uneven terrain with steps that are, in part, much too high for them before reaching the top of the long slide and quickly sliding down only to make their way to the top on all fours again.

The north flank of the energy storage system acts as a toboggan run in the winter. The steep slope, which terminates in a secure valley, is very popular with young and old alike. As the next stop on the route, in the north of the green spaces along the Ackermannstrasse, a smaller hill model, five metres tall at its highest point, has emerged. On the south flank, the side facing the development, a narrow meadow with harvesting from the neighbouring Munich heathlands has been initiated. It serves as a habitat for protected animal species.

At the outlet of the hill, following the central, large meadow, a stopover place under a red chestnut tree grove has been set up. The sitting stones of varying heights can be used as a parkour course by BMX bikers, but can also be used by wheelchair users. There is a playground here with a touch and experimental playground especially for children and teenagers with disabilities to be able to participate in integrated play. Hammocks, a wheelchair see-saw and table tennis tables, which can also be used by wheelchair users, all round off the facilities on offer.

In the large meadow in the middle of the residential complex, ball games can be played alongside games that require a lot of space with several groups able to play simultaneously. The entire park is a large play and activity area for small and large discoverers.

 

Conclusion

The project at the Ackermannbogen has succeeded, in a dense urban structure, in creating various spaces for creative play, meeting places for all age groups, and playgrounds with equipment that has been gratefully received. In the centre of the city families can find places nearby in their home environment without having to travel too far, including places for relaxation and exchange and a place with which they can identify.

 

Project data

Surface area of the presented grounds approx. 2.7 hectares

Planning of the presented grounds, apart from the ‘Large Meadow’ (HOAI Performance phases 1-5): zaharias landschaftsarchitekten, Gabriella Zaharias. Assistant: Matthias Thoma

Builders: Landeshauptstadt München (State Capital, Munich), Building Department (horticulture)

Project management: Nicole Preußner, Harald Mattheas

Playground equipment: Fritz Müller GmbH / Climbstone, Sport Stones GmbH, Richter Spielgeräte GmbH

 

Photo: zaharias landschaftsarchitekten

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