23. October 2015

Aven­tura – Europe’s longest play­ground struc­ture

It begins in a shaky fash­ion at the foot of Bromberg Hill. A large access net leads up to a tree­house-like tower. And this is just the begin­ning – the begin­ning of Europe’s longest climb­ing struc­ture. Mean­der­ing 168 metres up the hill are a great vari­ety of tun­nels and bridges, bal­an­cing ele­ments and rub­ber mats, which pass through mul­tiple towers along the way.

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Plan­ning

“Aven­tura – Play Moun­tain” is loc­ated in Medebach, a small town and hol­i­day resort in Hoch­sauer­land, which attracts hikers in sum­mer and ski­ers in winter. After a build­ing phase that was com­pleted in record time, the facil­ity was offi­cially opened at the end of Septem­ber 2015, hav­ing already been giv­en TÜV cer­ti­fic­a­tion the pre­vi­ous month. The new “play­ground” is loc­ated on land provided by the town of Medebach and forms part of Cen­ter Parc, a fam­ily resort sur­roun­ded by nature. The facil­ity can be used for free by resort guests, vis­it­ors to the region and loc­al inhab­it­ants alike. The idea for the con­struc­tion of a large, recre­ation­al facil­ity that was also required in some way to be the only one of its kind in Ger­many goes back a few years. In 2007, winter storm Kyrill left severe dam­age in its wake. It was Cen­ter Parc’s land­scape archi­tect and bio­lo­gist, Jean Hen­kens who ori­gin­ally came up with the idea, draw­ing inspir­a­tion from Bromberg being known in his­tory as “where the wind lives”. This led to the choice of air, one of the four ele­ments, to be the under­ly­ing theme for the giant climb­ing struc­ture.
The pro­ject was then fur­ther developed and imple­men­ted by the Pader­born based land­scape archi­tec­tur­al prac­tice Gasse|Schumacher|Schramm in cooper­a­tion with Ber­liner Seil­fab­rik.

Imple­ment­a­tion

“What makes the pro­ject unusu­al is its scale,” explains Mari­us Kotte, archi­tect and head of the con­struc­tion and devel­op­ment depart­ment at Ber­liner Seil­fab­rik. “Above all, we needed to pay the utmost atten­tion to pro­ject man­age­ment, since the pro­ject involved a great degree of plan­ning and devel­op­ment as well as the pre­par­a­tion and imple­ment­a­tion of vari­ous pro­duc­tion pro­cesses. The chal­lenge lay in our deliv­er­ing this major order whilst not neg­lect­ing our oth­er cli­ents and their orders.” The pro­ject was sub-divided into nine seg­ments, the man­u­fac­ture of each seg­ment being treated as an indi­vidu­al con­tract. Struc­tur­ing the pro­ject in this way ensured its com­ple­tion on sched­ule. Rising to the chal­lenge of new product devel­op­ment dur­ing the con­struc­tion pro­cess proved par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful. A num­ber of innov­a­tions have been incor­por­ated into Play Moun­tain: sev­er­al towers are being seen for the first time, as are the con­nec­tions between the seg­ments and their con­nect­ive ele­ments, e.g. between tubes and joints. Although the tallest tower is 7.8 metres high, at no point is it pos­sible to fall any fur­ther than the leg­ally-per­mit­ted dis­tance of three metres.

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Nets inside lead the vis­it­or to a long, spiralling tun­nel slide. Anoth­er tower is dis­tin­guished by a spe­cial fea­ture: by lying on a view­ing net, vis­it­ors can mar­vel at the won­der­ful sur­round­ing land­scape. These towers are clad in bam­boo pan­els. Ber­liner Seil­fab­rik selec­ted bam­boo not only because it is more dur­able than wood, but because it makes a smal­ler envir­on­ment­al foot­print. Being a grass spe­cies, after har­vest­ing bam­boo can grow again, unlike wood.

Sus­pen­ded between the posts inside two towers are large cocoon-like spheres, access to these being via plate-shaped nets. It was import­ant for these ele­ments to be as trans­par­ent as pos­sible while still remain­ing safe. With this in mind, they were enclosed in a safety net of fine mesh. Such net­ting was also employed where a small gully is tra­versed by the climb­ing struc­ture, at which point a clas­sic sus­pen­sion bridge is used to cross above a cliff face. Approx­im­ately 2000 metres of bright red rope has been used for the 22 con­nect­ing ele­ments of the struc­ture. As well as the ever-pop­u­lar net tun­nels and clas­sic sus­pen­sion bridges, new trans­ition­al ele­ments can also be seen, such as the liana bridge, a nar­row net walk­way sus­pen­ded from long ropes, not to men­tion a tun­nel enclosed in a rub­ber mem­brane. One segment—involving a com­bin­a­tion of slop­ing and balancing—is par­tic­u­larly chal­len­ging. It is here that the far from fully grown vis­it­ors prove to have a dis­tinct advant­age. Also pop­u­lar is the so-called chess­board bridge, com­pris­ing squares of rub­ber stretched between hold­ing ropes. Here, the chil­dren can hop, sway and relax.
Verbindungselemente

Found­a­tions and Impact Pro­tec­tion

Close to thirty six tons of steel was delivered to the build­ing site. Almost one hun­dred posts were used, the heav­iest of which, at 10.4 metres long, weighed 450kg. Test drilling pri­or to the build­ing phase on the upper reaches of the hill in Novem­ber 2014 encountered sol­id rock near the sur­face. How­ever, while excav­at­ing the found­a­tions in June 2015, this rock turned out to be soft shale. The found­a­tions for the posts had to be adjus­ted accord­ingly.
On the ground beneath the towers and plat­forms, the steep gradi­ents were lev­elled off so as to pre­vent the impact pro­tec­tion mater­i­al from being washed away by rain. In some areas wood chips were chosen for impact pro­tec­tion, while in oth­ers, turf was selec­ted. The col­ours of both these blend in with nature while also ensur­ing the highest safety stand­ards. Over time the lawn areas will change into flower mead­ows without com­prom­ising their impact pro­tec­tion prop­er­ties.
The gradi­ent of the slope is approx­im­ately 21 per cent, but can vary dra­mat­ic­ally, at some places reach­ing as much as 46 per cent. The tech­nic­al solu­tions devised by Ber­liner Seil­fab­rik allow for small modi­fic­a­tions to be car­ried out to the struc­ture on site. For example, the height of the so-called T joints, which fix rope, chains and tubing to the posts, are adjustable. This allows for any minor revi­sions to the plan deemed neces­sary in situ due to vagar­ies of the ter­rain.

For Small and Not-so-small Users Alike

Climb­ing to the top of the struc­ture is not easy. But those who per­haps don’t as yet dare to go through the towers or cross the bridges can play to their heart’s con­tent at the lower end of the facil­ity in an area spe­cially designed for small chil­dren. Here they are wel­comed by two large nest-swings and “Trii”, a small tree house with a slide. For accom­pa­ny­ing adults, a paved path runs par­al­lel to the entire climb­ing struc­ture.

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