Playground planning and inner-city redensification

Dipl.-Ing. Lothar Beltz, Architect and Urban Planner

Playground planning and inner-city redensification

General foreword on the subject of redensification The phenomenon of 'redensification' is an age-old approach to the solution of the problem of city growth. Whereas in ancient times and especially in the medieval cities it was the defensive structures in the form of city walls surrounding the city's ground plan that provided high structural density and latent redensification, today's slogan of politicians, the construction industry and urban planners in response to the lack of living space and the lack of areas available for construction, mainly in the metropolises, is 'redensification'.

Five common approaches can be distinguished:

- Conversion: Unused areas and buildings, such as railway tracks, military buildings, etc. or building yards are torn down and overbuilt
- Restructuring: Parking lots, garage courtyards and allotment gardens are overbuilt
- Attachments and superstructures: Existing buildings are added to or extended in order to create new living space
- Overbuilding inner courtyards: These areas are designed as 'green islands' and offer space in otherwise densely built-up urban areas
- Closing gaps between buildings: A very widespread method in the inner city area where not only unattractive areas are overbuilt


In recent years, these approaches have become increasingly important and make up the major part of housing construction in many large cities.
In Hamburg, for example, this is 90 percent. The potential is estimated to be very high and according to experts in the field will amount to up to 1.5 million dwellings by 2030.

At first glance, there are many good reasons for a further increase in density:
More efficient use of the existing infrastructure, the existing social and cultural environment, which the new residents can immediately access, and even the climate.
New buildings often have lower energy consumption and building extensions often go hand in hand with improving the energy efficiency of the entire building.

Nevertheless, the potential for conflict is great and resistance to redensification is constantly growing. If redensification is high, this has a negative impact on the quality of living, noise levels rise, open spaces are lost and traffic volumes increase. In many cities, local residents set up citizens' initiatives and collect signatures, especially where they are directly affected, for example when the nearby playground or backyard is being built on or the neighbour's balcony comes close to their own. One has to weigh up the framework conditions very carefully and assess the situations.

The conversion and design of the 'Mühlenpforte' site in Bad Driburg must be considered against this background, where the local authority decided against further redensification in favour of enhancement of the residential and leisure attractiveness of a city district.


1.         Current situation
The 'Mühlenpforte' site represents an open space located in the former wall and moat zone of the historical town plan directly in front of the still preserved town wall.
Existing features of this open space are:
-           The reconstructed mill wheel, with an elevated viewing platform on the ground plan of the former mill building and a staircase design from the 1920s framed with natural stone walls and pillars.
-           A circular flower bed, surrounded by a two-metre wide pavement Surrounded flower bed as area centre.
-           The empty and dilapidated (overshadowing) two-storey building 'Dringenberger Straße 4', which borders the square to the southwest.
 
The total land area of around 1,200 m² (37 m x 33 m) is limited to the north by the historical city wall running along Südstraße and to the south by Dringenberger Straße and Katzohlbach, a watercourse flowing through the city in a west-east direction.
Within the scope of the application for urban development funding submitted on 28 November 2016 in the programme year 2017, the city of Bad Driburg commissioned the conversion and design of the open space 'Mühlenpforte' as a 'Green Island in the City', in addition to the partial redesign of the Katzohlbach watercourse and the embankment next to the watercourse. The aim was to make this area more attractive for the numerous visitors to the 'spa town' of Bad Driburg and, in particular, to make the often lacking green and play areas available to inner city residents. A use as building land or parking space had previously been discussed and rejected in the city committees.

2.         Planning approach

In the early summer of 2017, the architect and urban planner Dipl.-Ing. Lothar Beltz was commissioned to develop a preliminary design concept for the three adjoining areas, which are characterised by mutual interactions, as follows

Redesign of the embankment at Katzohlbach and Klaaholts Haan

River redesign and renaturation of the Katzohlbach (in some areas)

• Design of the open area 'Mühlenpforte' including the water body                            Katzohlbach water body and the Dringenberger Straße to develop a preliminary design concept.
Based on this concept, an ideas workshop for playground design was held by the planning office 'StadtKinder' from Dortmund in July 2017, as essential areas of the open space were to be used as a playground and the children were to be involved in the development of ideas on the topics of exercise, climbing, playing, experiencing water, etc.
The ideas workshop was attended by 30 children who created models in small groups from various handicraft materials and presented them to interested parties in a final presentation.
The most salient wishes of the participating children were the following:
- Play towers with suspension bridge, ramp, climbing net, ropes and slide
- Bird's nest swing
- Balancing course (beams, ropes, chains, etc.)
- Pendulum seat combination (Hally Gally)
- Water play facilities:
→ Stones in the stream, Archimedes' screw, bridges over the stream
- Toddler play area:
→ Small house (also as sun protection), net swing, stairs, ladders, mini slide

In the planning phase ‒ draft planning ‒ which will now begin (in August 2017), these wishes should in part be adopted as specifications.
Overall, the following usage and design features had to be realised on the open space, which had now been significantly enlarged and better exposed to the sun after the planned demolition of the building at Dringenberger Straße 4.

• Construction of an attractive green and recreational area for all age groups to compensate for the lack of private gardens and green areas, especially in the neighbouring inner-city area.

• Improvement of the appearance and the ecological quality of the Katzohlbach brook adjacent to the open space by removing the concreted bank walls, widening the brook bed, terracing the bank zones with two rows of stone blocks approx. 50 cm high.

• Separation of the open space from the traffic area of the Dringenberger Straße by an approximately 1-metre high natural stone wall.

• Preservation of the approximately 30-year-old tree population on the open area, two English oak trees and five summer lime trees in the street area.

• Extension and improvement of the footpath between the Südstraße, connecting the old town centre, the Dringenberger Straße and the footpaths along the Katzohlbach.


3.         Realisation
By reducing the traffic area of Dringenberger Straße to the minimum of seven metres as a so-called mixed traffic island, it became possible to increase the planned open space in this area by approx. 200 m², to maximise the range of play equipment and to distribute it over the entire open space.


Thus, the following was arranged
•           the water play and mud area with the Archimedes' screw on the terraced shore area of the Katzohlbach brook
•           the toddlers' play area with playhouse, mini slide, bird's nest swing and sand excavator west of the footpath on an area totally covered in sand
•  the big tower with connecting bridge, climbing net and giant slide - approx. 8.50 meters in length - on the northern, higher area immediately in front of the historical city wall

•           a large trampoline at ground level (approx. 6.00 x 1.50 metres) east of the footpath in the centre of the square, directly adjacent to the pendulum seat combination 'Hally Gally'.

•           the high giant climbing scaffold 'Adlerhorst' in the eastern corner of the property, clearly visible from the 'Lange Straße' pedestrian zone.
•           the balancing course running in east - west direction parallel to the enclosure wall with four-metre belt webbing, rung ladder bridge, swing steps, wobble bridge and spring balance beam.

The entire square ensemble was completed by a multitude of well-placed seating areas in the form of park benches, benches integrated into the boundary wall and a seating group with table set up in the immediate vicinity of the brook, as well as two new trees to be planted (weeping willows) near the shore.

The planning was presented to the public on 9 November 2017 by representatives of the city of Bad Driburg and the planning office in the city hall as part of an information event. Thanks to the broad approval of the public, the overall measure could be adopted in December 2017 and January 2018 in the municipal committees, with the aim of implementation in 2018.
After the invitation to tender had been issued, the garden, landscaping and road construction work was carried out by Tegetmeier from Brakel and all playground equipment, including its installation, was manufactured by PlayParc from Bad Driburg.
Following the start of construction in May 2018 and rapid progress, the majority of the playground equipment was installed on the completed square in August 2018.
The eagerly anticipated opening took place on 18 April 2019 by the mayor of Bad Driburg, Burkhard Deppe, and was attended by a large number of the local population.

Even before the official opening it had become clear that the goal of the planning, to create a playground and open space for local recreation, would be completely met. Dozens of children of different ages, whose parents and grandparents lingered on the numerous seating areas, were playing, while groups and onlookers stood outside the area, on Dringenberger Straße and the parking lot opposite.
 

Image: Playparc


                 

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