A very special indoor playground

A very special indoor playground

On 22 June, the Geoparc de Percé in Canada's Quebec opened its new indoor play area to the public. This features an extensive, three-dimensional netting adventure experience combined with a ‘water world’. It was the architect group BC2 based in Montreal that came up with the original concept for the design, which was realised in collaboration with the German playground equipment manufacturer Berliner Seilfabrik. The idea was to simulate the surrounding geographical terrain. As the small city of Percé is located directly on the eastern seaboard of Canada where the landscape is dominated by massive cliffs and imposing rock formations in the sea, this means that the corresponding netting landscape is as diverse and unique as the original.

Two black horizontal nets are spanned over the whole area of the space, where they divide the room into three levels, representing the sky on top, the sea world in the middle and the ocean floor at the bottom. These three levels are linked by three cone-shaped net funnels that are similar in form to the large rocky outcrops that emerge from the sea just off the coast of Percé. Exactly like the outcrops, these funnels also differ in appearance with regard to diameter (3.20 m to 4.80 m) and height (3.20 m to 4 m). Within the funnels there are additional, assorted climbing elements, such as a ladder and a small horizontal net that provides an intermediate landing.   

The funnels enable users to descend from the 'sky' to the underwater world and down as far as the ocean floor. There are openings in the funnels providing for access at all three levels. There is a tunnel slide for those who prefer to get down into the depths as quickly as possible. Also providing a connection between the central level and the ocean floor are climbing ropes that look not dissimilar to underwater plants together with stone-like swing seats suspended on cables, so that little mermaids and mermen have the opportunity to sway back and forth through the 'water'.

Hammocks are slung just under the ceiling of the uppermost level where children can both chill out and experience the sensation of floating on air. As specified by the architects, the hammocks have been arranged so that it is possible to climb from one to the other. They resemble clouds in the sky above the ocean below from which it is possible to oversee the whole landscape.

The ceiling of the space is coloured a very dark blue, so that it is almost black, and is embellished with stars and several small lamps. This impression of a wide night-time sky suitably complements the overall appearance of the indoor play area. 

It is necessary to look no further than the philosophy of the customer to find the reason why a netting-based landscape made almost entirely of rope and cable was constructed. The central objective of the Geoparc de Percé is to help conserve the structure of the native local habitat with its flora and fauna. Among the strategies it employs to achieve this aim are the promotion of geotourism and environmental education. This is why a concept such as the Geoparc has been created in Percé within which visitors can observe and interact with rare plants and animals, unusual rock formations and simply water and thus develop an enhanced awareness of their relevance.

One of the main requirements of the Geoparc was that the new indoor play space should provide the illusion of 'walking on water'. The mesh of the horizontal nets makes this possible while, at the same time, negotiating these elements also provides a challenge for the children.

And the realisation of this climbing landscape was also not without its challenges. "Enclosed spaces often confront us with problems when it comes to planning because the area itself is predefined and thus there is no latitude for modification," explains Marius Kotte, architect and head of the Construction and Development section of Berliner Seilfabrik. "We had to ensure accuracy of fit of the nets and also that there were appropriate anchorage points."

The Berlin-based Creative Center was able to identify suitable attachment sites on the basis of available building plans. With the help of a digital planning tool, the locations for these were plotted and then prepared on-site in Canada. This made it possible to fabricate all the nets ‒ that cover a total area of 200 m² ‒ in Berlin without the necessity for subsequent adjustment in Canada. To provide for the required stability, the screw fasteners were attached directly to steel girders within the building. In addition, the nets are fixed to aluminium globes suspended from the ceiling that are distributed throughout the space. This prevents central sagging of the horizontal nets and also gives them a wave-like form that suggests water.  

This indoor playground has turned out to be a complete success. More than 200 children daily have been romping around on the net landscape since its opening. "You can climb around on the nets, there are hammocks where you can take a rest and there is even a slide! This is a super playground because you can get up real high and you still feel safe," is how young Nicolas enthuses about the play space when interviewed on ICI Radio-Canada. The customer is more than satisfied with the result. "We are genuinely very pleased," the president of Geoparc de Percé tells ICI Radio-Canada, "We already have a wealth of attractions in Percé but we were looking to add to it something with tourist appeal that could be used in bad weather. Thanks to this indoor feature we now have something to offer the whole year round." 

 

Text: Ferdinand Sieglin (Berliner Seilfabrik GmbH & Co.)

Image: Berliner Seilfabrik GmbH & Co. 
 

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