Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rainwater on the Playground - Making Drainage a Play Feature

Learning through Landscapes also produced an insightful report on the Berlin schoolyards, with many great images, including those above.  There's a wealth of inspiration in these schools' tolerance for untidiness, their insistence on sand rather than mulch or safety surfacing,  and the 'reprofiling' of school yards to introduce slopes and's a must-read document.  

One aspect of the report is the use of drainage as a play feature.  When you do hear about playground drainage it's usually as a problem! But these schoolyards consistently see it as opportunity,  channeling the flow with gentle swales and valleys, places kids naturally like to play.   

The water course can take various forms, from an artistic mosaic to a boulder-strewn stream bed.  You can of course add piped-in water to these features, but I like the way using rainwater introduces a seasonality and changeability to the playscape.

Orange Park, London by Planet Earth Ltd

Dahl Playfield, Seattle WA, by siteworkshop

The ever-helpful London Play have produced a document all about playing with rainwater and sustainable drainage strategies with loads of helpful tips and great site examples to inspire your own rainwater playscape.

The flip side of drainage-as-playfeature is that NOT realizing the attractiveness of rainwater channels can inadvertently cause a problem by drawing children into a space that wasn't designed for them, and carries too much water to be safe.  The nice urban drainage scheme of Upton, Northamptonshire (below) is an irresistible playspace and has been adopted as such by children in the community, but this can't be encouraged since it wasn't a planned use.  (thanks to  reader Amy for this information) 

Upton drainage scheme via sustainablecities

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