From the concrete elephant to the first theme playground in Sibiu

From the concrete elephant to the first theme playground in Sibiu

A beautiful play castle was built in 2016 in Sibiu. Sibiu (Hermannstadt) is one of the most important ethnic German cities of Transylvania (also known as Siebenbürgen).

The story of this castle began almost 10 years ago with the first refurbished playground near the well known concrete elephant in the Sub Arini central park. The concrete elephant is in a way a symbol of the communist era, but it’s also a reminder of the good times the kids had there even though things were hard around them.

While in Germany concrete might have a different meaning, in Romania it’s strongly connected to the communist era when huge areas of beautiful old buildings were destroyed to make room for big block houses for the new city workers. But maybe this meaning could change now as concrete means progress. Progress sometimes means changing something old, obsolete, no matter if we talk about buildings or beliefs.

Part of this progress is that the concrete elephant has witnessed the birth of the first Neospiel playgrounds in the heart of Sibiu and in the heart of Romania. This was in the same year when Romania officially joined the European Union. It was the glamorous year of 2007 when Sibiu became the cultural capital of Europe, a moment in time that has brought significant changes and improvements to the city.

The city is now part of the strategic European TEN-T core route both on the highway infrastructure as on the airport. The Sibiu international airport now connects the city to five air nodes in Germany: Munich, Dortmund, Stuttgart, Memmingen and Nuremberg, but also to other European destinations – Vienna, London, Madrid and Milan. Also the highway that will be finished in 2017 will allow much faster delivery times to and from western Europe.

Sibiu has continued to slowly but relentlessly rebuild its playground base considering different players on the market, aiming for quality but also remembering its German ties. Situated in front of the concrete elephant the playground built 9 years ago still stands without major repair, proof of the building quality. Already one generation of kids moved on from playing as infants on it to the adolescents walking around it in the park.

But I was telling you a story about a castle, right? Just a little bit more time. If you walk or drive today around the city you can see the beautiful old buildings but also modern ones. You can feel the rush of a vibrant economy that has made Sibiu a city with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Romania.

Economic prosperity gives parents hope so the movement towards the west has lowered significantly. The German ethnics return home either to meet their relatives but also to invest. Prosperity means a consistent city budget and a better opportunity for kids as most of the communist era playgrounds had been replaced by new ones. Prosperity means that Sibiu has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Romania and maybe in Europe. It also means that during the world crisis the real estate value, the buying power in this city didn’t drop.

The city has built over the years 28 playgrounds with Playpark equipment spread around the city. Nest swings have become the most popular items in the city and you can see even 7 kids playing at the same time in one nest. While beautiful, carefully planned, the playgrounds missed their own fairy story up to 2016. With the creation of the new wooden play castle in the Sub Arini central park, near the Stadium, the city has begun to tell a strong story about history and integration. This is the first theme playground in the city.

Not only that, it’s also a playground where the innovative concept of integration trough inclusion has been implemented in Sibiu. Some of the first play structures that allow both disabled children and children without disabilities to play together and bond were installed there. This trend is continuing as more people care about integration. People have started to have a strong voice in the city trough social media and their voice is listened to by their partners from the city council.

The castle theme was first created by Neospiel at Grevenbroich/Germany in a Theme park called “Bobbolandia”. In 2014 this huge castle was built on hillside on top of an old public swimming pool, which was re-opened as Leisure-Park in 2014.

The idea of inclusion first started at Neospiel in 2011 as part of a project together with a school for children with special needs in Warburg/Germany.

The castle from the edge of Sub Arini Park, a huge 220 000 sqm park, begins a new story for kids, a story of kings and queens, a story of integration, a story of long-lasting change. A story created by the city council of Sibiu together with playground producer Neospiel and its Romanian partner, Loftrek. We invite you to visit it with your kids, to play and dream, to relive your childhood in the green lungs of Sibiu.

 

Text: Liviu Olos – associate Loftrek SRL Romania, Steffen Strasser

Photo: Loftrek SRL Romania

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