Movement and action site on Droryplatz – an outstanding schoolyard-playground in Berlin Neukölln

Movement and action site on Droryplatz – an outstanding schoolyard-playground in Berlin Neukölln

At the start of the summer the big day finally arrived: after rebuilding work lasting several months the new playground on Droryplatz in Berlin's Neukölln district was officially opened at a summer festival. During school hours the playground is used by the children of the Löwenzahn school while in the afternoon it is accessible as a central, official facility for children from the neighbourhood. A crèche and two day nurseries also benefit as they are in the immediate vicinity of the remodelled Droryplatz.

The project was developed by the Quartiersmanagement Richardplatz Süd agency in conjunction with numerous partners and financed from the "Social City" programme. The lead architect was Thomi Bauermeister from the GruppeF studio. Ahead of the actual construction phase the planning office considered the ideas and wishes of children, young people, teachers and carers during several play and model construction initiatives and workshops and took them into account in their plans.

The outcome is a playground with various sites which is attractive to users of all ages. In addition to free use areas for letting off steam that are also suitable for ball games, a connecting tarmac “speedway” and a teepee for taking time out, a particularly striking feature is the low-level rope garden.

More specifically, this is a Terranos netscape by Berliner Seilfabrik. This is comprised of various rope climbing elements situated close to the ground which allows children of different ability levels plenty of scope to have fun climbing and balancing. On Droryplatz in Neukölln 12 different elements including a hand over hand rope, a balancing rope, a high rope, a climbing net with a passage and a spreader bar element are linked in such a way that an oval-shaped netscape is created. As a connecting element red and blue posts are embedded in the ground to which the climbing elements are attached using the company's innovative Frox rope connection. In this way kids' hands are protected from exposure to dangerous shackles and thimbles. The Frox is connected to the posts with the help of a height-adjustable Terranos clamp.

The stand-out feature of this netscape is a six-metre beam which is attached between two posts and "lies" diagonally across the low ropes garden in the air. This enables elements of the so-called movement and action site, which is based on a concept from the Unfallkasse Berlin, the city's social accident insurance institution, to be integrated into the netscape.

A movement and action site is suitable for children between the ages of four and twelve and fosters the development of their motor, social and cognitive skills. It can consist of simple wooden building components (boxes, beams, planks) that can be assembled like oversized building blocks. Crates, car tyres and inner tubes can also be used ‒ preferably in an outside area. The children can use these materials to build and experiment with their own play and movement areas, with new situations evolving all the time as a result of their constant rebuilding. According to Wolfgang Atzler, managing director of Unfallkasse Berlin, the movement and action site plays "a key role in encouraging movement and therefore in improving health in schools and day nurseries. In the newly created all-day schools the movement and action site offers particular versatility and enables children to engage with the themes of risk and self-appraisal."

These are also themes reflected in the netscape and consistently implemented through the beam. Accordingly, in the middle of the bar a rotating swivel has been affixed to which a rung can be attached using two straps. At each end of the rung two more rotating swivels are affixed to which straps for swinging and swaying are attached via a carbine hook. This construction of several swivelling elements enables children to enjoy an exceptionally wide range of balance and movement experiences.

Naturally a playground of this format, with a far greater offering than the typical facility, also has particular safety requirements. "When it comes to such unique projects there are no specific standards to be followed. And this means it is vital to get the independent appraiser on board as early as possible so that you don't end up with a facility that fails to meet safety requirements and therefore cannot be used," says Klaus Muth, Berliner Seilfabrik's technical director. With this consideration in mind, the beam was clad at each end with HDPE plates in order to prevent hands from being caught in the struts and the beam from being climbed on. A further safety requirement is that the swing apparatus may only be used under the supervision of a responsible person. Therefore, the children's pavilion on Droryplatz provides pedagogical support at specific times in the afternoons and at weekends. Outside these times the rung with straps is taken down so that all other elements of the playscape are completely accessible.

Assembling the beam presented a particular challenge when installing the playground as it was originally designed for events and exhibitions. "Such tight connecting elements cannot withstand sand so we needed to exercise a level of care that is not required for typical playgrounds," says Klaus Muth. But everything turned out well in the end and the project has been a resounding success.

Over 600 children currently use this playground in Neukölln daily. Droryplatz, which was formerly a bit of a run-down spot in a disadvantaged district of Berlin, now serves as a meeting place for people of all ages. The "Droryplatz violence prevention" project, which provided the impetus for the project in 2013, has now given rise to the "We on Droryplatz – education in movement" initiative. Vandalism, littering and violent incidents have all declined considerably since the reconstruction. 

 

Photos: Berliner Seilfabrik

 

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