When we look back on our childhoods, we often recall ourselves standing at the top of a tree or on a shed roof, so naturally we can’t help wondering whether today’s children aren’t bored playing in their standard playgrounds. Now, however, a playground of a different kind has appeared in the Bauman Garden – one so unusual that it may remind you of several things at the same time: an American rollercoaster, a pirate ship, or perhaps a training ground for astronauts. It is accessible to all children, without any limit on age, physical ability, or creativity.
- to design an original playground for the Bauman Garden and create an accessible play area for dynamic activities for kids of all ages and abilities, keeping in mind the principle of inclusivity.
We designed a bright playground made from strong and long-lasting materials and equipped it with swings, pull-up bars, and climbing vines. To ensure that every child feels at home in the playground, we divided it into zones for children of different ages. We built a split-level ramp based on the idea of the rollercoaster; this can be climbed onto, run up, and even explored on a wheelchair.
In the vicinity of the Bauman Garden, where our playground is located, are three schools and one kindergarten – so we tried to invent entertainments for kids of all ages. The playground is divided into three zones: one for the very small children, one for children aged 7-10, and one for children aged 10-14. The zone for small children is more private and secure, while the older kids have more space in which to release their boundless energy.
When designing the project, we paid particular attention to children with limited abilities and tried to equip the playground with the most interesting equipment for children’s development and games. We were guided by the work of the Danish firm KOMPAN, which designs special equipment for children. One of the pieces of equipment on our playground is a hand ‘bicycle’ used for development exercises. For visually impaired children we provided brightly coloured zoning and facilities for tactile exercises. Most of the equipment is designed for games involving both healthy kids and kids with limited abilities.
Multiparks, a company that specializes in rope parks, helped us build safe structures for climbing. Some of the suspended creeper cables have been set up in such a way that a child in a wheelchair can grab them and use them to move forwards.
In spring 2013 we plan to embark on the second stage of creating surfaces for the playground. We have come up with the idea of bumps on the ground that form a zigzag route for wheelchairs and coordination exercises.
In order to make our playground as accessible as possible to all children without exception, we built a split-level ramp along the perimeter of the playground. The gradient of the slope allows even children in wheelchairs to ride onto it easily. The surface of the ramp consists of wide planks with a small gap between them so as not to impede the movement of the wheels.
The ramp’s inner railings are posts, while the outer wall consists of inclined solid panels with openings in which observation binoculars have been mounted. This creates an illusion of openness – something which is especially important for little children who are very curious, but still need to feel protected. On one section of the ramp a wall with tunnels has been built under the supports; children can climb into the tunnels so as to look with interest at the people around them.
It is extremely important for playgrounds to be made of strong materials and to be structurally safe. Our ramp is of larch – a very hard-wearing natural material. The metal-framed structures are able to withstand not only children, but even a small tank. The equipment, the heights of the slides, and all materials (including a special type of plastic) conform to Russian official standards for playgrounds.
Another part of the ramp is an amphitheatre. This is intended for audiences attending the children’s theatre, but can also be used as a play area. We came up with the idea of creating a wall for taking photographs alongside the amphitheatre; the design is inspired by Malevich’s Athletes and Woman with Rake. This is only a part of what will be a large play complex (construction is scheduled for spring 2013).
In order to make our playground dramatic and memorable, we incorporated bright details and a multi-coloured surface in the ramp’s design. And our efforts have been rewarded: children walking past cannot take their eyes off of our ‘big bright ship’ for little explorers!
For us this project has been a true return to childhood. In search of new ideas we frequently revisited our past, remembering how we used to love climbing trees. Meetings with contractors and clients sometimes took place in the playground, with us sitting on swings or the ramp (just try not smiling when holding a meeting in such a setting!). After examining research carried out by pediatric psychologists, we made a decision to build a playground that would be safe for our little explorers, but at the same time would not limit their curiosity. At all stages of construction we tried to get kids to give their ‘expert opinions’, and all of them willingly agreed to test the swings and pull-up bars for us.