Is there a trend towards rope play equipment?

Is there a trend towards rope play equipment?

Is it true then that there is a trend towards rope play equipment? And who were/ are the trend-setters?
The idea of rope play equipment came to life more than 40 years ago. The first pieces of equipment with an outer frame were developed at Berliner Seilfabrik in collaboration with Conrad Roland back in 1971. Towards the mid-seventies the centre pole pyramids, as they are termed, were put on the market. In the following years, many other rope play elements were developed (e.g. rope bridges, hammocks, etc.). From the nineties on, the Berliner Seilfabrik company developed the netscapes, which are so popular today, and geodesic play domes equipped with nets, ranging from spacious to very huge. The development work continued in the new millennium. Through sensible further development, the centre pole pyramids turned into attractive and modern climbing structures. Finally, the first completely round rope play structures followed, whose innovative icosahedral net structure allows optimal use of the frame. The product lines that characterize these stages of development are called Univers, Terranos, Geos, Pentagode and Cosmo. For 40 years now, Berliner Seilfabrik has been the leading pioneer in setting the trends in rope play equipment.

If other play equipment manufacturers have now also discovered rope play structures, this is because the originators of rope play equipment have met with constant and ever-increasing success. The market success of the rope play structures is a trend that has lasted a long time and still continues. From a certain point onwards, this success story has obviously taken on dimensions that prompted also manufacturers from other market segments to play the rope card as well. Some learnt the hard way and many a plagiarism was put into circulation.

In the early days, the rope play structures were classed as some exotic play equipment. Due to their striking appearance, the large net structures have been the big white elephant of the play equipment industry since the seventies. Some found these sometimes very tall structures highly original and fascinating, whereas others considered them fascinating but dangerous (“boring”, however, was never an attribute for rope play equipment). The evolution of rope play structures was thus always accompanied by the scholarly dispute over their safety. This latent dispute certainly slowed down the market expansion of this type of play equipment, but at the same time contributed to its aura of being something extraordinary and unique in play equipment heaven.

Today, the play equipment industry no longer considers the success of rope play equipment just a temporary marginal phenomenon or passing fashion but a lasting phenomenon. For this reason, the latest amendment to the European Standard for playground and leisure facilities considerably enhanced the status of rope play structures, as finally (37 years after their invention!) a standard chapter of their own was dedicated to them in 2008. Before the now present standard DIN EN 1176-11:2008 (Additional specific safety requirements and test methods for spatial network) came into force, spatial network in playgrounds was only subject to the standard EN 1176-1 (General safety requirements and test methods). Of course, this left plenty of room for interpretation regarding the application of part 1 to the entire species of rope play equipment, which, in return, led to considerable uncertainty among users and even safety inspectors. So it is no wonder that in the past the safety assessment of spatial network all too often depended on whether the expert had adequate experience in rope play equipment. The now achieved consideration of spatial network within the EN 1176 standard, which is accompanied by similar positive trends in North America and Australia, shows that rope play structures have now moved into the play equipment mainstream.

However, unlike other types of play equipment, the fact that they have gained acceptance doesn’t mean that they have lost their appeal and fascination. Rope play structures are more popular than ever, as more and more people have come to realize that rope play structures are actually one of the most exciting types of play equipment in the market and offer a very high play value. By the way, they are also among the safest types of play equipment for no other play equipment segment had a lower rate of serious accidents in the past.

All over the world, the demand for rope play equipment is still increasing. Consequently, the supply of rope play structures will also continue to increase. The Berliner Seilfabrik company is well set-up to set the trends regarding play value, design and quality in future as well.

Berlin remains the capital of rope play equipment!

Jens Zumblick (Berliner Seilfabrik)
Photos: Berliner Seilfabrik

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