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A Case Study in Outdoor Design: Berlin Playgrounds 9 : Water


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 Water is a significant part of nearly every school, setting and play park. It is one of the features most commonly asked for during consultation and is actively used every play time as a source of enjoyment, interest and challenge.


Berlin Playgrounds : Water

Play Children of all ages and both genders play in the water (showers and pools), with the water (dams and pathways) and use it for practical purposes (to cool off, clean their hands/feet).


Berlin Playgrounds : Water

Pumps The most common features are hand pumps that feed into a dry river bed, down a hill, across a series of levels or into sand. They encourage a high level of physical activity as it is quite strenuous work.


Berlin Playgrounds : Water

Cooperative Play All ages and both genders play together on collaborative projects to build dams and channel the water, often involving up to 30 children. Younger children use the water in role play.


Berlin Playgrounds : Water

Temporary Water Collection Dips and hollows in rocks and logs, both natural and sculpted collected rain and snow. These are often very small and support quiet play and fantasy play with toys.


Berlin Playgrounds : Water

Additional Features Water play is supported by a number of features to encourage interaction including sluice gates, squirting water, a shower, taps and an Archimedes screw (although this requires standing water so is in a play park not a school).


Berlin Playgrounds : Water

Practicalities Wet Clothes The children do not have special clothing for play with the water and as there is never any depth of water they mainly get wet hands and feet. Piles of socks and shoes by sandpits are a common sight, as children went into the sandpit barefoot and rolled up their trousers. Origin and Destination of Water By law all water that forms part of a permanent feature such as a pump has to come from the city’s drinking water supply and as such all water is safe to drink and play in. The water that collects in hollows and natural features is very shallow and so evaporates after a day or two. A tax on water entering the public drainage system encouraged natural onsite sustainable urban drainage. All surfaces must be porous and most water was pumped directly on to soil or sand to enable it to soak into the soil. If it hit brick or cobbles they were either designed to have holes/ cracks between them or in one school a shallow ‘river’ collects the water when it rains and delivers it into a designed soakaway/splash pool.


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

Produced in association with

Profile for Architecture + Design Scotland - Schools Programme

A Case Study in Outdoor Design: Berlin Playgrounds (9: Water)  

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

A Case Study in Outdoor Design: Berlin Playgrounds (9: Water)  

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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