"What a park!"

By Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Andreas Siebeck, Landscape architect AKNW

Before its conversion, the completely overgrown area of approx. four hectares was used only for car parking and dog walking and yet it represented important development within the concentrate urban city area. Provision of a qualified leisure area with central importance is a very important strategy to compensate for the lack of playgrounds, adventure and recreation areas.

The existing high-quality culture of participation – especially with regard to inclusion of children and youngsters – was a very good basic prerequisite for participation of local inhabitants in the park project. From all generations and cultures, these worked with great intensity in the different planning workshops. The high quality of the final result and the successful integration in the participation clearly show that only implementation, organisation and planning by one source can lead to success.

The ambitious project target was development of a new kind of leisure area for recreation and leisure-oriented activities for all generations. Generously sized, agriculturally adapted leisure areas integrate different activity and recreational functions. The uninterrupted allocation and clear display of the different functions were the central design theme.

One park for all

The main paths of the park divide into different areas which and also further allocated into smaller areas by man-made topography. The ground is laid out making clever use of the existing natural slope. The paths and ground lines are strongly linear from an architectural point of view and run parallel to the main natural ground lines. This linearity is broken up by the curving form of one side of each path and the organic shapes of the integrated play areas.
A clear designation of different areas allowed quiet and very boisterous activities to be located right next to each other without the two groups disturbing each other. In this way, various swings and climbing frames border on a grassy lawn for relaxing or any other personal activities. With the exception of a very few areas mainly dictated by function, every area can be observed well from other areas of the leisure park. This provides the park visitors with sufficient opportunities to see and be seen, for spectators and for actors. This is a further point in the concept, "One park for all".

The main function of a leisure park is provision of an offer of recreational activities, for relaxation and resting, but above all for sport and play; and in this point the park has a great deal to offer. There are play areas to meet all demands and for widely differing activities. The play opportunities leave hardly a wish unanswered: different shapes for climbing and swinging, slides, balance bars, roundabouts, jumping pits, games with water and sand. Everything can be used in combination or separately. Highlight among the games on offer is the large climbing frame which even passes directly over the main path. The climbing frame caters for different requirements and combines a variety of activities into one. Like many other items of play equipment, this climbing frame was designed and built especially for the leisure park. Other parts were bought "direct from stock" although for both standard and individual equipment, attention was paid to high-value play, integration into the overall concept and satisfaction of the participation results.
A further highlight is the multifunctional synthetic-floored play area which is suitable for any kind of exercise activity as well as football. A spectator grandstand, integrated into the landscape provides to opportunity to watch the sports and activities going on, or simply to take a rest. Separate pitches are provided for basket ball, volley ball, table tennis and even boules although these can also all be used for other games. The large all-weather play area is designed to be used for open-air events as, for example, during the opening ceremony. It is accessible to heavy transport vehicles and corresponding supply lines are installed.

Along with the activities on offer, there are also sufficient opportunities to take a rest. Examples are the large, terraced lawns with tables and benches for pick-nicks, the chess field, tables with integrated game boards and hammock combinations. Seating is provided by classical park benches with high backs as well as some without so that the user can decide himself in which direction he wishes to look. Individually made podiums in the same design as the benches, may be used in a variety of ways – sitting, lying or as tables, although classical tables and bench groups area also provided in different places.
One of these pick-nick areas is consciously designed to give access to wheelchairs. Parts of the benches have been left out so that the chairs can be placed directly under the tables and the whole combination has been given a solid base. Many other areas are also as barrier-free as possible. There is a wheelchair roundabout and other playground equipment which is accessible and can be used easily and efficiently by children and adults with handicaps. All paved areas can be reached without steps and this also applies to the especially converted and publicly accessible barrier-free toilets in the main building of the children's home located in the leisure park. Right next to the leisure park a modern skatepark is being built. Between the skatepark and the leisure park runs a bike trail along a former rail track which also connects the park to further regional bike trails.

Conclusion

Financing of the project was provided to a major part by subsidies from the European Community, the German state and the region of North-Rhine Westphalia. Participation, planning and construction supervision was carried out by the planning offices "Stadt-Kinder", Dortmund and the landscape architect offices Schelhorn, Frankfurt. The intensive utilisation and high acceptance by users confirm the success of the implementation of this ambitious project. The conclusions reached by the local authorities involved are just as positive.
Thirty years after opening of the first city park on the Höferstrasse in central Velbert, changing times and the different requirement profiles of today's user groups made a complete renovation of this area necessary. Thanks to federal and regional subsidies from the urban renovation programme "Stadtumbau West", in 2007 the opportunity arose to renovate the whole area. The project, planned and carried out with help from local inhabitants and opened with major public celebrations in May 2011, was used intensively by all ages and users from the first day on and is now the central public meeting point in this area of the city.

 

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