An intriguing and challenging playground with a big appeal

Oliver Pohlann (Landscape Architect and Landscaping Project Manager at HOWOGE)

An intriguing and challenging playground with a big appeal

With about 60,000 apartments in its portfolio, the Berlin HOWOGE housing association is one of the ten major landlords in Germany. For more than 25 years, the company has stood for sustainable portfolio development, innovative residential concepts and social commitment at various locations in Berlin. As part of the periodic façade renovation of a block of 422 apartments in the Berlin district of Hohenschönhausen, the outdoor area was redesigned as well. As a result, a varied children’s playground was built in the inner courtyard of the complex of buildings. As the courtyard is accessible to the public, the play area not only benefits the immediate residents, but also provides an exciting space for the entire neighbourhood – including adjacent day-care centres - to engage in play and physical activity.

It was important to create a playground that caters to the needs of all age groups. Both the very young ones and adolescents were to get their money’s worth.

Consequently, the playground features play equipment designed to meet various requirements. The playground is divided into two areas, one for younger children and the other for older children. At the centre of the toddler area is a small playhouse from Berliner Seilfabrik‘s Spooky Rookies line of play equipment. This playhouse is specifically geared to the needs of children up to the age of 3 for early psychomotor and social development. The mud tables on the lower level of the playhouse, for instance, encourage role play, which promotes language acquisition and social skills in a playful manner. The upper part of the house can also be reached by crawling up a ramp. From here the kids can go down the toddler slide – a kind of movement that has a positive effect on spatial perception and improves the children’s sense of balance and coordination skills.

The highlight of the play area for the “big ones” is a combination of the Woodville wooden playhouses by Berliner Seilfabrik, with two houses of different heights sharing a common support post. The larger one of the two huts is equipped with a connecting net, which is combined with an access net. The two huts are connected by a balcony, which can be climbed either using a rope ladder or a rocking plate ascent. The ascent possibilities have been deliberately chosen to provide various levels of difficulty and to pose an exciting challenge also to older kids. It was also important to us to choose colours for the ropes, balls, clamps and roofs that are as interesting and appealing as possible. At the same time, of course, the colour of the playground equipment was to match the colour of the renovated façades of the adjacent blocks of apartments. The combination of bright orange system balls and lime-coloured ropes brings about a signal effect and really attracts children.

A remarkable feature of the Woodville play equipment is its constructional and elegant wood protection. The wood is protected from above as well as from below by other materials. The mounting system is part of the design and no extra posts with built-in steel anchors are required. Individual components have a hybrid character. That means that the parts subjected to heavy wear during play do not connect directly to the wood but to stainless steel tubes, which are much more stable and resistant – and thus contribute to the longevity of the playground equipment. Ultimately, the deficits of wood are eliminated and children can still enjoy the look and feel of wood when playing in and with Woodville.

The playground is topped off by two playpoints by Urban Design Berlin. The Swingo double swing lets two children play at once. Swing sets are simply a must in any playground as they are extremely popular with children. In addition, we have opted for a teeter-totter; the selected model by Berliner has three relocatable balls for balancing different weights. At the same time, this play equipment illustrates essential physical interrelationships with regard to gravity and balance. Here, children have the opportunity to discover the laws of science through play.

Further measures implemented in the inner courtyard – new fences for the tenant gardens that ground floor tenants tend so lovingly, new laundry drying racks, all-weather pavements for the main paths, new slats for all benches as well as planting further shrubs and trees – round off the work. Spacious green areas that can also be used by children complement the actual playground area. The adjacent parking area for tenants was equipped with modern LED mast luminaires.

Not only the tenants of the adjoining apartments and the surrounding day-care centres are more than pleased with the redesign of the playground, but also random passers-by are now spending more and more time in the inner courtyard on Dierhagener Straße. Thus, HOWOGE has absolutely lived up to its motto of “More than just living”.

Photo: Berliner Seilfabrik GmbH & Co. 

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