Diversified play and climbing worlds at the 8th State Horticultural Show in Saxony

Kristin Schwabe (Landesgartenschau Frankenberg/Sa. gGmbH)

Diversified play and climbing worlds at the 8th State Horticultural Show in Saxony

From concept to creation: planning, construction and planting of the 27-acre site in and around the town of Frankenberg in Saxony have been on-going for the past four years. Now the time has come and from 20 April to 6 October, Frankenberg will be playing host to the State Horticultural Show. The more than 300 events on the 170 days and two newly developed nature-like experience spaces on the site invite visitors to come, enjoy the natural surroundings, the cultural features and be active.

The motto of the 8th State Horticultural Show in Saxony can be translated as 'Naturally at the focus' and rather like the tendrils of a plant, it links together the various facets of this major event. The two newly created experience spaces in the areas known as Zschopauaue and Mühlbachtal have been deliberately designed to allow visitors to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy it with all their senses. Here, you can not only admire the sight of nature in all its glory but also smell, taste, feel and hear what it has to offer. There is a wealth of learning and hands-on activities - in the 'Green Classroom' for example - intended to encourage interaction with the natural surroundings; the flowers, plants, animals and water.


An experience and meeting place that promotes sustainable urban development

On the 27-acre exhibition site, the Berlin-based landscape architects Weidinger Landschaftsarchitekten working in accordance with the concept of the show have put in place a range of modernistic, eco-friendly permanent attractions that are to function as park, sport, play and recreational facilities and thus continue to have a positive effect on life in the urban environment even after the end of the horticultural show.

The intention of the new urban and landscape planning model adopted by Frankenberg is to break boundaries and generate fluid transitions. There are novel visual axes, such as that created by the new cycle trail and foot bridge over the B169 highway that expertly links the show site in the Zschopauaue with the city centre, placing this in the spotlight. Water as an element has been brought nearer to the urban core and elegantly connects the experience spaces in the Zschopauaue river meadows, the historic old town and the 'Paradise Garden' in the Mühlbachtal.

The core long term goal of the State Horticultural Show in Frankenberg is to provide spaces for education and encounters and make nature and gardening accessible for everyone. Among the landscape and architectural highlights are:


The Zschopauaue experience space (15 acres)

This exuberant hotspot of the show site is to the west of the medieval town centre, on the flood plain of the Zschopautal. There is always something going on here as this is the place where most play and sport activities are concentrated.


The 'physics' playground

Children are predisposed to learn on their own and are thus naturally motivated to discover new things every day and discover the world around them through play. And the 'physics' playground was constructed with this in mind - in close collaboration with pupils of the Frankenberg Luther secondary school, whose ideas fed into the planning of the facility.

There are many play options and features designed to encourage children to experiment and explore. These include sound tubes and tube telephones for trying out acoustic effects, concave and convex mirrors for optical experimentation and a game consisting of rotatable dice for memory training.

Fascinating optical effects can also be created with the mobile, 4-metre high kaleidoscope. Also available is a bellows with which air can be pumped into a plexiglass tube, making light objects placed within this, such as feathers and table tennis balls, fly and gyrate.

Fun and physical activity are provided by the large multiperson swing. The children on it can actually experience the forces generated by acceleration. The playground has been surfaced with wood chips, which at a depth of 40 cm provide sufficient impact protection.


Sparkasse bank low level rope course

The low level rope course consists mainly of ropes and nets stretched between trees and poles at knee height that provide for different routes thanks to the various ways they are arranged. The low level rope course was designed with the intention of meeting the needs of children to take physical exercise. Children and even adults can test their sense of balance and agility on the climbing and balancing sections, the nets, ropes and support cables.

The playground is surrounded by a walkway and a small seating option made of coloured asphalt also serves as the entrance to the climbing and balancing landscape. In the centre of the installation is a small platform where users can take a short rest from their exertions.


enviaM dexterity trail

The enviaM dexterity trail is located on the island in the River Zschopau, directly next to the generating plant of the enviaM energy supplier. This juxtaposition gave birth to the idea of giving the playground an industrial, 'energy conversion' feel. The support structure is intended to be reminiscent of a 'traverse system'.

On the dexterity trail, children and young people can improve their stamina, flexibility and coordination skills with the help of the various exercises.

The various training exercises are positioned at regular intervals and optically distinguished from each other by red support constructions. There is a sequence of gymnastic and climbing equipment and an obstacle course that can be used to see who can complete the trail in the fastest time. Specialised individual training is also possible on climbing poles and bars.


New cable bridge over the B169 highway

Frankenberg has been enriched by a further architectural focus in the form of the new cable bridge across the B169. Because of its sinuous shape, it has been dubbed 'The Snake' by local residents.

This cycle and pedestrian bridge has a length of 262 metres, is 2.5 metres wide and weighs a total of 320 tonnes. The unusual feature of the bridge is the fact that the cycle and foot roadway is supported by inclined cables attached to a 20-metre high pylon.

'The Snake' elegantly brings together the new nature experience space in the Zschopauaue with its variety of sport, play and recreational options, part of the new Zschopautal cycle trail and the historic town centre of Frankenberg. The purpose of the new link is to attract more visitors into the old town centre and provide cyclists and pedestrians with a safe way to cross the busy highway.

The pylon of the new bridge is visible from afar, providing the town with an additional architectural attraction that is appealingly illuminated at night. The foot path illumination is integrated in the bridge parapet. Use of energy-saving LED lighting throughout provides for dazzle-free illumination of the pathway.

In the centre of the bridge under the pylon there are fantastic views of the Zschopauaue meadows and the town centre. The bridge roadway has a maximum gradient of 5%, ensuring it can be readily used by cyclists and those with physical disabilities, making it possible for them to access nature from the urban environment. For pedestrians in a hurry, there is stairway next to the B169 that can be used as a short cut.


Small children's playground in the north

To the north of the Zschopautal experience space, the landscaped area gives way to the natural flood meadows. Eye-catching features here are the new serpentine cycle and pedestrian bridge whose form imitates the meanders of the River Mühlbach and the small children's playground in front of it. The arrangement of the equipment on the playground also echoes in abstract form the shape of the bridge. Between the square posts made of Douglas fir, fan-like segments spread out in which the children can climb, balance and slide. There are also two steep curved sections to be used for climbing and crawling. An undulating boardwalk links the two curved sections and is the base for a series of sand cranes to encourage users to play with the sand. A ball-shaped seat with small slide can be used for relaxation.

Sand is the central element here, and children can play with it to their hearts' content using the buckets on chains, the wooden troughs and sand slide. The colour yellow has been used as main design feature throughout the facility to complement the sand.


Mühlbachtal 'Paradise Garden' (11.5 acres)

Mühlbachtal valley is in the centre of Frankenberg and forms an important green link between the historic town core and the residential areas to the east. This romantic valley with extensive green spaces can be used by residents to regenerate energy, rest and relax. The town core is connected to the municipal park by a new barrier-free pedestrian and cycle trial that runs parallel to the valley, which has been restored to its natural state.

The main attractions in the Mühlbachtal valley are:

  • The dye garden. Here visitors will find interesting insights and hands-on activities relating to the production of dyes from domestic plants. The colour of red cabbage, for example, can be converted to a bright blue simply by the use of salt - did you know that?
  • A rose bank and stone garden
  • An apiary with neighbouring information centre
  • A nature trail. Visitors walking the trail can learn about the various created biotopes and their flora and fauna. There are a number of information stands supplied with telescopes and ear trumpets to provide for a more close-up interaction with the natural world.
  • The world in miniature. The main places of interest in central Saxony and the town halls of cities and towns partnered with Frankenberg can be viewed here in miniature.
  • The Green Classroom. The idea is to enable children and young people to realise that it can be fun to learn about nature and show them biological relationships in easily understood, playful form. This will be the venue for many events and workshops during the whole period of the horticultural show.


Water playground with climbing area

Water is the predominant element in the 'Paradise Garden' of the restored Mühlbachtal. No wonder that water is also the outstanding feature of this playground. There are various segments in which children can play with water, redirect its course and fill it into various containers.

The playground next door has been supplied with a range of high quality equipment. The posts are made of robinia tree trunks whose uneven form underlines the natural character of the Mühlbachtal.

The playground also has a deliberate circular design to create a flowing effect like that of water. It is also the case that children feel less threatened in circular spaces. There is a small wooden bridge that playfully brings children to the centre of the attraction.

The water playground and the neighbouring climbing area have been created using untreated, unpainted wood to emphasize the eco-friendliness of the newly constructed Mühlbachtal 'Paradise Garden' experience space.


Image: Sven Lehmann

The play features described above were installed by the following:
WERKFORM  -  SPORT GERLACH, Spielgeräte und Außenmöblierung GmbH Ulrich Paulig & Co. merry go round™ OHG | SPIEL-SPASS-FREIZEIT Klaus Kriehn


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