Green oasis with Celtic-themed playground

By Elisa Scheibl (NRT Narr . Rist . Türk Landschaftsarchitekten BDLA Stadtplaner & Ingenieure)

Green oasis with Celtic-themed playground

One objective of the project for the renovation and redesign of the municipal park in Erding in Bavaria was to provide for a sensitive, eco-friendly approach to the preservation of the existing stock of trees while adapting the site to the needs of the local residents. At the same time, the terms of reference also required the drafting of a spatial use plan in keeping with the original concept of this historical landscaped park with its diverse sightlines. Highlights of the rejuvenated site are the area around the new 'Wendiadunum' Celtic-themed playground and the landscaped seating steps leading down the River Sempt.

Erding's municipal park, reopened in June 2013, has been returned to its former grandeur. The town's green heart was originally created in 1822 by Baron Walter von Grainger as a landscaped park in the English style. During the course of the 20th century however, lack of maintenance meant that the park became increasingly overgrown so that open spaces were few and far between. The network of pathways was obscured by the many beaten tracks produced by errant feet over the years. The non-stabilised banks of the Sempt had been to a large extent eroded or seriously impaired as a result of the degree of utilisation both by humans and water fowl. The playground itself no longer conformed to what is required of a modern, education-orientated facility located near an urban centre that can be used by children and young people of all ages.

As the park was still frequently and generally used, it was not only necessary to take a sensitive approach to making improvements but also to consult with the various stakeholder groups. One of the main objectives of the project was to find a solution that would provide for sympathetic and eco-friendly retention of the variety of the existing trees and shrubs. With this in view, the park infrastructure was adapted to the current and future needs of residents while the spatial use blueprint was drawn up to ensure that it harmonised with the original concept of this historical landscaped park. This meant that many interconnected open spaces and miscellaneous sightlines needed to be provided or preserved. The ecological diversity of the natural resources was improved and thanks to these measures, the existing tree population now appears to better advantage. The aim was not to recreate the situation in 1822, particularly with regard to the quality of the trees; indeed this would have represented a major problem for the renovation work. The result would have been a monument to a former garden and not the dynamic municipal park that provides an attractive venue for recreation and interaction and meets the current needs of local people. In its new clothes, the park has again become an interesting and appealing magnet for all age groups. But this is not all - the improvements to biodiversity mean that the park also serves as a refuge and habitat for all sorts of animals and plants.

There is a wayfinding system in the park that provides visitors with information on the various sectors. For runners, there is a wide selection of jogging tracks with information boards to inform users of the length of each. There is even a primer for runners that tells them how they can improve their running technique and avoid injuries. Fans of culture and art have been catered for - there is an art trail that follows the course of the main circular pathway. The fixed points of the pathway, such as the old monuments and entrance ways, are supplemented by regularly replaced art objects.

Then there is the generously proportioned new ‘Wendiadunum' playground that provides children with plenty of space to let off steam. This adventure playground has been designed in the form of a Celtic village. It was planned in consultation with an archaeologist and is modelled on a Celtic 'Rundling' or circular village that has been excavated in southern Bavaria. This Celtic village not only offers wonderful play options for all age groups but also provides in playful form an introduction to life in the Celtic period. Even those with no interest in history - both parents and children - will be delighted by the play options. For educational purposes (e.g. for visits by school classes), information on Celtic culture can be found in one of the Celtic-style houses.

There is a Celtic gateway to the south that provides access to the village. Also to be found within the village is a large sand play section for children aged 0 - 3 years with seats for parents and child supervisors. Directly next to the gateway is an extensive section containing three houses, two of which are open timber-framed structures with seating and a large central table. On an information board in the third thatched Celtic building, Epona and Vindelico, two young Celtic children, guide visitors through various scenes of day-to-day life in Celtic times. Images of excavated objects provide a link to the history of Erding itself while a timeline helps today's children imagine what it was like to live back then. There are also smaller huts constructed as stilt houses in the sand section of the village that offer Celt-inspired fun and games options for younger children aged 3 years and over.

The highpoint of the village - in all senses of the word - is the climbable Celtic tower that dominates the playground and is its emblem. A tube slide brings children who have climbed to the top in breathtaking speed back to the bottom.

In the sand section there is a rectangular area surrounded by a wall that is reserved for young children that is meant to represent a farmstead surrounded by palisade and ditch in the centre of the village. The Celtic theme is continued in the form of other elements, such as boulders (symbolising standing stones) and a play fountain.

In the adjacent grove there is a low-level rope course, a climbing section with slack lines, balancing and climbing equipment and a cableway. A tree house is at the core of the rope course in the sand section.
Towards the south, across the main pathway, there is an expansive and open grassed area that can be used for exercise, ball games and other active pastimes. Used to provide a border to this meadow are large boulders and tree trunks. These can be used for play as well as for seating.

In 2010, Erding local authority acquired a large continuous plot of land, the Mayr-Wirt-Gelände, to the south of the suburban rail line. This provided the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to significantly increase the extent of the original municipal park. This ample space, dedicated to nature preservation, has added a new facet to the park, significantly enhancing its leisure and recreational potential.

The area has been made accessible for non-intrusive nature lessons for school classes and kindergarten groups by the construction of a viewing platform and a 'green classroom' on the peninsular located between the Sempt and its Altarm channel.
There are information boards that draw attention to the more interesting plants and animals that can be found in the locality, such as the flowers that grow in orchard meadows, meadow insects and old fruit species and the fish, amphibians, insects and water plants that inhabit areas of standing water.

Another important factor in the redevelopment of the park was the gradually opening of sections leading to the river Sempt. The river banks have been made accessible by means of the construction of seating steps: these now provide somewhere to relax, watch nature and soak up the sun. The accessible areas alternate with sections to which there is no egress and which have been left to nature where the characteristic local flora and fauna can flourish.

The municipal park in Erding is a place where visitors can meet and communicate with each other but also rest and relax: it is a place where people can come together and be together.


Image: NRT Narr . Rist . Türk Landschaftsarchitekten BDLA Stadtplaner & Ingenieure

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