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A Case Study in Outdoor Design: Berlin Playgrounds 4 : Play Machines


Project Information

The Schools Programme commissioned Grounds for Learning to create a series of nine case studies, which looks at and documents the widespread transformation of play spaces in schools, kindergartens and public parks in Berlin, Germany. The nine case studies focus on different themes that were important factors in the spaces’ successes. The themes are; 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Choice Risk and Challenge Nature with a Capital N Play Machines Sand Shade and Seating Topography Variety and Texture Water

Within each case study there are examples and images from a variety of settings – schools, nurseries and public play parks – to show the variation and scope of the design ideas. All areas shown began life as flat, dull tarmac grounds but they demonstrate that it is possible to transform schoolyards into playgrounds.

Introduction Described by our guide as ‘Play Machines’ these fixed pieces of play equipment encourage a wide range of play. Nearly all are bespoke, designed by artists often using unpainted Robinia timber. All children use the equipment – although often for unique purposes!


Berlin Playgrounds : Play Machines

Balancing Logs, stones, platforms that move in unpredictable ways and high wires all provide opportunities to practice balancing both just above the ground and higher up!


Berlin Playgrounds : Play Machines

Slides Either on their own or part of another structure, slides prove very popular. Nearly all have a number of ways to access them, many being on the side of a hill and wide enough for more than one child.


Berlin Playgrounds : Play Machines

Climbing Climbing frames, trees (both fallen and alive), ropes, free standing climbing walls, ladders, rocks, boulders and tunnels are just some of the features children use to develop upper body strength through climbing.


Berlin Playgrounds : Play Machines

Bridges Bridges on their own or as a link to play structures are popular with children of all age. They run, jump off them, hide and play in the spaces beneath them.


Berlin Playgrounds : Play Machines

Tunnels Tunnels through flowerbeds, hills or stone mountains are seen in most settings and are a popular place to play – often not within the tunnel but using the tunnel as somewhere to sit on, jump off or run over.


Berlin Playgrounds : Play Machines

Swings The design and siting of most swings encourage cooperative play, either as a place to rest or through working together to make it swing. Bucket swings, tyres, hammocks and ropes are used with timber poles.


Berlin Playgrounds : Play Machines

Play Huts Huts and places to shelter provide seating, shelter, space for away from supervision and as play structures themselves. They are often part of other structures and most sites have more than one to reduce congestion.


Berlin Playgrounds : Play Machines

Practicalities Vandals There is evidence of other people using the play spaces, especially in huts that cannot be seen from the road. This leads to vandalism such as graffiti but nothing more serious. This is left as it would get repeated if removed and it is felt that offering the places to play is more important. Cost The play equipment is often created by artists or a mixture of pre-bought and artist-created components. This meant that they are more expensive than regular pieces of equipment. They’re often bought over a number of years – one piece at a time with specific fundraising. One project commissioned an artist to design and cost a play hut. They then divided the cost between all children and wrote to all parents asking for a small sum of under £10 each to reach the total. More than one... There are many pieces of equipment and seating so no one piece formed the focal point of the ground. This reduced congestion and ensured that there was a variety for every play experience.


Project Information The Schools Programme commissioned Grounds for Learning to create a series of nine case studies, which looks at and documents the widespread transformation of play spaces in schools, kindergartens and public parks in Berlin, Germany. The nine case studies focus on different themes that were important factors in the spaces’ successes. The themes are; 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Choice Risk and Challenge Nature with a capital N Play Machines Sand Shade and Seating Topography Variety and Texture Water

For more information about what we do, and to view the other Case Studies, visit SmarterPlaces.org.

Architecture and Design Scotland Bakehouse Close, 146 Canongate Edinburgh EH8 8DD Level 2, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow, G1 3NU T: +44 (0) 845 1 800 642 F: +44 (0) 845 1 800 643 E: info@ads.org.uk

www.ads.org.uk www.smarterplaces.org

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A Case Study in Outdoor Design: Berlin Playgrounds (4: Play Machines)  

The Schools Programme commissioned Grounds for Learning to create a series of nine case studies, which looks at and documents the widespread...

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