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While site slopes may present design challenges, they can provide amazing opportunities in taking the traditional play space to a new level. In recent years trends have changed; we are not just designing play equipment, we are designing play spaces with an increasing demand for more sophisticated design.
No longer is it good enough just to plonk a standard playground package into a blank paddock. Gradients, mounds or terracing should be worked with, not around, not only to develop great looking play spaces, but to stimulate imaginative play and to provide a sense of adventure.
The following five ideas will provide inspiration when designing the integration of site gradients into the playspace.
Always a favourite, a slide is a must in any playground. But, even better if integrated with the surrounding landscape. Longer and more interesting slides can be incorporated into slopes without unduly increasing the fall height. Many variations using both closed tube type and open flat-bed construction are available.
While stainless steel slides are generally more expensive, they are a great option for vandal resistance combined with the sleek elegance of the material.
However, the most common mound slide is the roto-moulded plastic slide; due to its cost efficiency and the adaptability of its modular sections, an endless array of slide designs can be created.
Bridges and walkways from raised areas provide excellent all abilities access, suiting children with very limited mobility (including wheelchair users), as well as those with normal abilities.
As well as having their usual functional linking application, bridges can dramatically improve architectural and aesthetic aspects that cannot be achieved otherwise. For a more adventurous approach, wire rope bridges can be used to span between a mound and a formal playground structure at a lower level.
Obviously, alternative transition elements must also be provided where all abilities access is required.
While this does not require formal structures, this simple form of play seems to be something that kids love! If space allows, a huge turfed rolling hill can be a cost effective means of keeping kids happy, especially if surplus spoil from a site cut is available.
The image below shows a purpose built mound at Royal Park Nature Playground adjacent the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital – great vantage point of the city, enhanced aesthetics – and great for rolling down!
Landscape architects have long since recognised the benefits of introducing into the play environment variations in levels, textures and structure to create a sense of adventure and an ‘invitation for discovery.’
Children love to climb! Council and school maintenance officers are regularly confronted with the issue of erosion on mounds in high activity areas, such as a playground. The combination of children running up and down an incline and wet weather quickly results in a slippery, muddy, eroded landscape.
Often designers overcome this problem by installing rubber surfacing on the embankment and fitting hand holds and abseiling ropes. Not only does this provide a sustainable solution, but it also adds a unique play aspect to the play space.
Installing a play structure such as a fort type design on a hill or bank can substantially enhance the visual dominance and impact of the play structure, without the cost associated with a high tower play unit. If cleverly designed, it can also deal with the fall height issues often present in tall structures. This idea creates an excellent focal point for a play space, and can provide visual dominance if that is the intent of the designer.
How often do we hear children saying ‘I’m the king of the castle’? While providing the usual and important physical challenges, this concept provides added scope for imaginative play that is also something that kids love!
Of course, play opportunities incorporating slopes, terraces and banks are endless!
adventure+ has been designing, manufacturing and installing unique playground equipment for over 30 years. We are available to provide specialised design, playground advice and industry insights.