Friday, October 29, 2010

Sustainable Schools in Berlin

Berlin is an amazing city in many ways; architecture, transportation and learning landscapes! In June 2010 I had the opportunity to join Frode Svane's study trip of Berlin Playscapes. It was an inspiring 4 days with thousands of new photos and ideas. I would highly recommend any of Frode's study-trips if you are interested in nature playgrounds, green schools, and adventure play. You are sure to have a good time while visiting the sites!

Reinhardswald Grade School in Berlin was perhaps my favorite. The school had everything; stormwater treatment, eco roof, solar panels, a great natural playground in a forest setting, and happy kids. The stormwater that flows off the school's roof is collected in underground cisterns for reuse in the school. The highlight is that the overflowing cisterns create a stream that runs through the playground into a wetland feature in the middle of the site. During hard rains the principal said that students run to the windows to see the 'stream' appear from under the earth. What a great way to get kids outside in the winter! Here are some of my favorite site photos.

The stream source doubles as a play piece in the summer.

Even the dry stream channel offers opportunities for play!

This pavilion overlooks the central wetland feature where stormwater is cleaned and infiltrated back into the groundwater. The pavilion is open for community use evenings and weekends.

This tunnel and sand play area were fenced off.  I assumed something was broken or perhaps the area was not meeting safety standards. But, the designer explained they fence off certain portions of the playground to allow the grass to grow back. This action also re-excites the students about the space when the fence comes down.

This TV in the school hall shows how much energy the school is producing from the solar panels and using for lighting, heating etc. Students can get a current snapshot of their energy footprint any time, any day.

You can visit the school's website here.

Silver Falls Natural Play Area Breaks Ground

Silver Falls State Park has been taking advantage of the nice weather the last few weeks and they have begun to clear and grade the natural play areas and interpretive path. With the help of the county inmate work crew and a few dedicated volunteers they have transplanted many native plants, cleared 5 play areas and ¼ mile loop trail. Park staff will spend some of their time this winter fabricating play components, signage, and interpretive elements for installation next spring and summer.

In hard economic times creativity can help get a project completed. Oregon Park and Recreation Staff have been work with a Marion County Inmate Crew to implement the first stages to the project. Koin Local 6 was on site last week to check in on the crew’s progress. You can see their story and video footage here.

The park is looking for parks volunteers to help finish the construction. There are opportunities for artists, scout troops, families, and other citizens with a range of skills. Let us know if you are interested in helping construct this nature based play area. We can find a task that meets your skills and commitment level.
You should be able to enjoy the nature play area starting in the summer of 2011.

Interpretation at George Rogers Park

I always enjoy interpretation that is not just a sign; something interactive and telling without making you stand there and read. I think the mini smelter BBQ adds this element in George Rogers Park. The small replica of the historic iron furnace gives residents a chance to cook up their own fire! We also put interpretive panels into existing arbor framework so they fit into the site. Sometimes you can learn something without even trying.

GreenWorks worked for the City of Lake Oswego to design upgrades to this historic park in the middle of the city. Improvements included a picnic lawn, trail upgrades, walls, overlooks, an entrance trellis, parking lot stormwater facilities, and an accessible ramp to the river. We recently completed a second phase of interpretive upgrades. A series of interpretive panels on the arbor and under an interpretive shelter outline the historic furnace/ steel smelter on site.

Interpretive panels fit into the arbor framework

Interpretive kiosk (before panels are installed)

You can find a nice blog post about Families and George Rogers Park here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's big, It's blue, and it looks incredibly fun

Folks at Imagination Playground and KaBoom have developed a new set of tools for the creative youngster on the playground. The bright blue, soft, water proof pieces give kids a chance to move, and create in endless ways.This is not quite nature based, but it is fun and stimulates creativity and cooperation. KaBoom calls it a combination of sand, water, and loose parts that can be used anywhere at any time. Great news for urban, under served kids.

See Imagination Playground in Action

Photos from Imagination Playground
Imagination Playground, more inforamtion

Marylhurst Early Childhood Center Upgrades Playground

The Marylhurst Early Childhood Center in Oregon City has been working with GreenWorks Landscape Architecture to develop a master plan for a learning garden and nature based playground. We helped the school define their needs and developed two site design options that were combined into a preferred site master plan.

Some projects have a lot of money and some have a lot of heart. This school is built on the dedication of the teachers and parents. The playground upgrades will happen in phases as the school can collect money and organize volunteers. Once the final plan was completed the school was able to move forward with phase one improvements just in time for students to arrive for the 2010 school year. Above is the plan we developed and below are photos of the volunteer installation.

The fall 2010 improvements included transforming a large asphalt area into a green, adventure play area. Since the school could not remove the asphalt (based on city requirements) they decided to build on top of it. The spaces created are inspiring, creative, and fun places for riding bikes, imaginative play, and gardening.

The 'potions lab' takes shape

The raised play areas and trike loop are installed by volunteer despite the rain.

Raised planters divide the play area from the parking area.

Hood River School District - School Upgrades

This diagram demonstrates the cyclical resource flows at the new LEED rated Hood River Middle School science and music addition     

In response to a successful bond measure the Hood River School District has been upgrading, renovating and building additions to their elementary, middle and high schools. GreenWorks helped retrofit existing sites and create new spaces and learning landscapes. Site improvements include plazas, playgrounds, stormwater facilities, outdoor classrooms, performance/ amphitheater spaces, learning gardens, ADA improvements, bike parking and associated landscapes. The site work carefully incorporates the needs of students and how they experience, use and enjoy a site while balancing safety, maintenance and sustainability. GreenWorks services included schematic design, construction documents, specifications, LEED documentation, bidding assistance and construction administration.

As Hood River School District completes these upgrades this fall, Hood River Middle school receives recognition for its LEED improvements. (See link to full article below.) We helped the Hood River Middle School flush out their ideas for a new science and music education addition. The addition will be LEED Certified because of sustainable features that help reduce the buildings footprint and give students a chance to interact with green technology. Improvements included:

- Rainwater capture and reuse inside and outside the building
- Learning gardens
- Educational Greenhouse
- Solar Panels for energy generation
- Material Reuse
- Native Landscaping
- Rain Gardens
- Composting
- Alternative Transportation

Hood River MS Educational Greenhouse

Three trees were removed on site to facilitate construction and allow for solar access to the solar panels. Log rounds were reused as planters in the landscape.
This trellis will support fruiting vines and espalier trees while helping to shade the south side of the building.

Hood River Valley High School stormwater feature and pathways

Outdoor classroom space for kindergartner students at West Side Elementary

For more information visit:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Safety, Historic Playgrounds, and Moving Forward

I recently took the Playground Safety Inspectors Course from the National Playground Safety Institute. I now see why we have so many similar playground everywhere! The safety standards are daunting. I have been trudging through  the thick ASTM and Consumer Product Safety Codes and applying them to natural play. It looks like I am not alone in that endeavor.
The Central Park Conservancy is remaking two of their pioneering adventure playgrounds; Richard Dattner's Ancient Playground, and The West 100th Street playground, designed by Ross, Ryan, Jacquette Architects. Renovations added clear space or use zones now required for falls. They also made the playgrounds universally accessible.  Other renovations increased visibility, improved safety, and made the play areas more aesthetically pleasing. They are both amazing spaces.

The West 100th Street playground

 Ancient's  Playground


M. Paul Friedberg on Playgrounds

Well, I am officially a landscape architect. After 8 years of practice, 5 massive licensing tests and a final oral interview I am in!

To celebrate I have a post that links back to the Cultural Landscape Foundation. They have some great short movies from some well known landscape architects. M. Paul Friedberg caught my attention because he has some great philosophy on play. Take a look at the 'design' and 'project' tabs.

M. Paul Friedberg Interview 

He has worked on playgrounds in Central Park, Battery Park and others through the Astor foundation. Below are photos from the Central Park 67th Street Playground.

Photos from M. Paul Friedberg and Partners

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Woodland Adventure at the Minnesota Zoo

Wow! This looks like a fun place to play. The Minnesota Zoo has added an animal themed play area with lots of custom play pieces to mimic natural habitats. One of their goals is to increase kids connection to nature. I tend to support less equipment based play areas, but understand how the heavy traffic, high volumes, and need for documented safety would steer the Minnesota Zoo in this direction.

You can see more details at the Minnesota Zoo Website.  
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