Beetsplein Playground, NL Architects and DS Landschaparchitecten, Dordrecht Netherlands 2003

Another playscape I’m thinking about going into the New Year is the Beetsplein playground by NL Architects in conjunction with DS Landschapsarchitecten.  (NL Architects also designed the WOS 8 building, another of the most popular posts on Playscapes).

When I was in New York at the MoMA event, I had this weird conversation with someone from the playground world who asserted that nothing interesting, or innovative, or new was happening in playgrounds.  I countered that playgrounds are finally being seen as landscapes, not collections of equipment, and that in particular the creation of three-dimensional ground planes (known here at Playscapes as playgrounds-should-not-be-flat)  was really changing how playgrounds look and play.   He remained belligerently unconvinced that this mattered, probably because he installs collections of equipment.

But I love how the Beetsplein playground demonstrates that change, and its importance and possibilities.  In placement (a small unfenced neighborhood square) and geometry  (a circle with a thick ring-edge) it feels reminiscent of Aldo van Eyck’s nearby constructs from the mid-century.

But pulling up the edge of the ring, rather than leaving it flat, allows the space around the circle to form grassy hills instead of flat plains.

And warping the ring so that it is taller in some areas and shorter in others allows for the creation of unique playspaces while preserving the ability of the edge to be used as an undulating walking/riding track (way more fun than a flat track).

There needs to be a way to reach the top of the taller portions of the ring of course, and this provides for a range of interesting play ideas.  Simply making stairs bigger forms a grandstand (sited to catch the afternoon sun) that allows for parents sitting, for performances, and extra fun for riders.

In another tall part of the circle a sheer edge becomes a space dedicated to smaller children, with a slide and climbing wall and caves.

The spots where the edge descends become a natural for scrambles to the top, and long low benches also enjoyed by bike riders and skateboarders.

All this play potential, and still plenty of space in the center court for ball play, for which NL’s design is also multipurpose; basketball goals attached to standard lightpoles, and somersault bars (another reference to our Aldo) that also function as football goals.

NL Architects say it’s three playgrounds in one, but I think it’s even more than three, and it’s one of the most brilliant playscapes I know.  All enabled by shaping the ground plane, so that it is Not Flat.


Leave a Reply