Les Abattoirs de Casablanca Playground, Rietveld Academy DesignLab, April 2011

In April 2011, nineteen students of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie/ designLAB designed and realised a playground on the terrain of the Anciens Abattoirs of Casablanca, Morocco…the playground came about in close collaboration with local craftsmen and construction workers. The remains of the playgrounds designed by Aldo van Eyck in Amsterdam served as a starting point. His statement that not the object but the child itself should move was revisited, resulting in five new playing elements. Shaded benches that welcome the parents to the site surround these elements. And a carefully composed master plan studies the way the playground fits within the grid formed by a cluster of heritage buildings. The applied materials and techniques, such as concrete, rope and nets from the fishing harbour, wooden scaffolding beams and metal are locally largely available. Krijn Christiaansen and Cathelijne Montens are public space designers and work as teachers at the designLAB department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. They were responsible for the program, briefing, working method and coaching during this project.”

Aldo van Eyck was one of the few people (even today!) to understand the playground as a means not an end.   He would have approved of this playscape as a device to attract mothers and families living in a fragile area into a space where they can experience social services and exchanges.

Part of the brief for this playground included the ability to both repair and reproduce it locally.  Playgrounds that focus on local materials are sometimes lacking in other design qualities, but even with materials limitations the designLab students devised a playscape that is both aesthetically and spatially sophisticated, including a shaded sandbox/forest, a faceted dome, and swing buoys and fishing net towers that reflect local harbour materials.

See also a press release of the playground project (in French) and a time-lapse video of some of the playground’s construction sequence.

Images by Krijn Christiaansen, Cathelijne Montens, Sophie Krier, Alexander Spiliopoulos via sophie-krier.

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