Basle: Erlenmattpark II – paradise for children
Basle Stadtgärtnerei, the department responsible for management of the city's green spaces, is marking its 150th anniversary this year and the official celebrations got underway on 9 April in Erlenmatt. As a "gift“ to the people of Basle Erlenmattpark was inaugurated with a huge public festival.
“We are conquering the park“ was the slogan for the official opening of the “Erlenmatt II” site‚ which was celebrated with a vibrant festival on 8th and 9th April 2011 in Basle. A new traffic-calmed district with apartments and extensive green spaces is currently under development on a 20 hectare site formerly occupied by a marshalling yard and a freight depot. Spaces for play and movement are at the heart of the project whose planning and design take into account artistically the site’s former use as a railway facility.
The playground on the Erlenmatt is important for the park and the district as a whole so the Stadtgärtnerei focused on play facilities that were especially appropriate for the site. The KuKuk (Kunst - Kultur - Konzeption) company, which was awarded the contract to design the park, drew on reminiscences of the disused marshalling yard and freight depot in the planning and execution of its play and movement space: Thus squared lengths of timber corresponded to railway sleepers in shape and size, wood and Corten steel fences allude to the form of “freight wagons”, boulders and wooden structures call to mind fallen freight and a secluded wooden “nest“ suggests that nature has already reclaimed the railway site .
Children of all ages will find age-appropriate opportunities for climbing, moving hand over hand along ropes, balancing and jumping: They can test their skills on a climbing wall with grips, make their way from one climbing wall to another using a forest of thick ropes, and balance over or scrabble under robinia trunks. The carefully interwoven space also offers plenty of hiding places: under piled up sleepers, between rocks, in rooms with Corten steel walls and inside a red “wooden shack’ - children can discover their own nooks in which they are concealed from others. The “signal box“ tower is a chaotic wooden structure which children can clamber up. Inside they must ascend through a thicket of robinia trunks in order to race down a pipe slide with a 360° curve. Sound elements such as vibrating discs on Corten steel walls and steel bands that can be hit with beaters provide sensory experiences in addition to the extensive range of other stimulation on offer in Erlenmattpark. In the water play area, which is partly constructed from discarded locomotive buffers, water swirls and squirts, providing huge joy to children. Here they can jump and hop through puddles, guide the jet of water by holding the nozzles, play alone or influence the water play with others.
The site, which has a number of rest areas, encourages activity and movement, fosters creativity and fantasy and enables people to consciously engage with themselves and their environment.
The play and experience space in Erlenmattpark sets new standards in public playground construction. The strength of the materials – much of which derives from their sheer size – in conjunction with the complex structure of the space creates an aesthetic experience that has more in common with an art installation than conventional playground planning. The successful incorporation of classic play equipment such as nest swings, slides, a hand-over-hand rope, a seesaw and water features complete this unique ensemble with a touch of the avant garde.
Play space offering
The city of Basle has 73 public playgrounds with equipment which are complemented by a diverse range of play areas in the playgrounds of public schools. In January 2007 a credit line in the amount of 5.3 million franks was made available to ensure compliance with safety regulations for public playgrounds and the play areas of schools, nurseries and swimming pools. A total of 107 of 179 play areas must be adapted to comply with the new safety regulations. The main changes are in the size and type of fall protection and the safety distance or fall space required by the equipment. The credit line runs until 2012. Within the framework of the adaptation to the new safety standards a playground plan is being drawn up.
The city of Basle has four staffed “Robi“ playgrounds:
the Robi Allmend, Robi Bachgraben, Robi Horburg and Robi Volta facilities. These four playgrounds are open year-round at the usual times to all children and young people. As well as an adventure play area with a host of play facilities each playground also has well-equipped workshops and recreation and play rooms.
Children can climb, run, hide, splash around and balance to their heart's content. As the space in which children can freely move diminishes playgrounds are becoming even more vital resources. This is why the city of Basle will be investing heavily in the upgrade of all its playgrounds over the coming years.