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waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

China Architecture News - Jun 04, 2021 - 13:11   3795 views

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

Beijing-based architecture practice waa (we architech anonymous) has created the Playscape, a climbable undulating mound activates the former warehouses for children’s community centre in Beijing, China.

Named The Playscape - Children’s Community Centre, the 2,657-square-metre space is a refurbishment project of inside an existing industrial complex in the north of Beijing.

Pipes, a giant and smooth mound, colorful playground, large holes, staircases wrap around the industrial complex, while creating a highly emotional space for children. Their emotions and bodies are activated at the same time through this immersive playground. 

The existing complex was used a 1970’s warehouse complex for grain storage supported by a transport facility. 

The client of the project was a healthcare provider specializing in observing, and supporting children’s development relating to movement for a broad range of age groups. The client commissioned waa to design a playground for children.

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

The studio's concept is based on a notion of "Back to the Neighborhood." "We believe the missing element of a child’s development in a modern Chinese city is chiefly a functioning neighborhood," said waa. 

"We hoped to create the experience of street play and prioritize the reduction for gizmos and screen time. Drawing inspiration from popular culture of the past and abstracting important identities for our new neighborhood’s character."

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

The design of The Playscape is embodied with five traits: Hide and seek (Group interaction), Adventure playground (Risk), Nook and Cranny (Body Proportion), Maze (Discovery), Fantasy: (Imagination).

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

Hide and seek (Group interaction) means Free-will which is vital to engage a child’s imagination and promoting this interaction within a group. Adventure playground (Risk) means Balance - is invisible until we lose it, children decide what level of risk they feel comfortable to experience.

Nook and Cranny (Body Proportion) means that spaces are designed for children with nooks to explore and understand ergonomics. Maze (Discovery) means that places out of sight need to be explored to reveal themselves, the most efficient or direct route is not always the most enjoyable.

And lastly, Fantasy: (Imagination) attributes to The landscape which is abstracted by removing iconography and allow flexibility in thought based scenarios. 

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

The Playscape has been designed as a tool to promote learning while allowing narrative creation for children to dream and develop senses relating to equilibrium (balance) and proprioception (awareness). 

"Balance is taken for granted until it is challenged. It is our hope that activity based emotional responses to this built environment and the perceptions harnessed. Can augment the client’s tools in helping strengthen co-ordination within the child’s development," said the studio.

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

In design, the architects paid great attention to the architecture devices on the projects. They embedded three main architectural interventions into the themes of play from the concept: Pipe, Roof and Mound.

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

As the architects explain, Pipes focus on smaller Nook’s to test proprioception - body awareness. "These armatures are arranged as a series of connecting bridges and staircases." 

Five diameter scales are arranged in such dimensions: 2.3m (Walkways) 1.7m (Staircases) 1.3m (Safety Balustrade) 0.8m (Slides) 0.4m (External Lighting).

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

Secondly, Roof presents a high point to overview the stage set and its possibilities and poses a choice to children to embrace unorthodox routes. 

A full loop can be made and children can travel from the terrace and transcend under the mound through slides which vary in height from 7m to 4.3m. The network impresses upon them alternative directions to goals, sometimes the second shortest route is more fun.  

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

Lastly, Mound, which is the main element of design, enhances development in senses relating to equilibrium (Balance) and freedom of decision making. 

According to the architects, "the mounds allow children to explore and decide on their comfort in regards to risk and by transcending a variety of inclines at speed." 

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

The studio also creates additional area by harnessing area under the topography. This area can be accessed through a number of cuts or slides from the terrace level. 

Program

The building complex is made of a cluster of existing warehouses encircling a courtyard. A public street disconnects the south building which is re-connected by the use of an aerial bridge to link the roof terraces. Access also provides a private route to an adjoining Kindergarten, and an option to enter the adjacent public park.

The existing cluster provides for 3 internal play spaces. Playspace 1 is located in a single level low pitched 6-metre volume. This space is used for 2-4 year olds as a crawlspace with hanging fabrics. 

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

Inside, following the design principles of outer playscape, it also includes a soft space topography for babies supplemented with a restaurant and library. 

Playspace 2 is divided vertically into three levels. A tiered environment for ages over 4 including a subterranean interactive environment, a steep climbing topography, with a suspended tensile Net all connected with slides. Additional directed learning can be found on level 2 and 3 with a total of 6 Multifunctional Classroom’s. A single slide connects vertically 7m from the classroom to level 1. 

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

The South Building competes the courtyard adjacent to the road with views into a public park. All buildings have a looped roof terrace easing parents observation of children, while being able to access parent specific amenities including a terraced bar.

"Children are often passive in decision making scenarios. Play is often the only period under their own control," highlighted the studio. "The Design Focus was to address the missing elements of inner city dwelling, distorting scales, manipulating movement sequences to build a tool for sensory learning." 

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

"Where the iconography of the project becomes about the activity and embracing a degree of risk we hope to nudge children to imagine and feel what they see as the limits to their own adventure," the architects added.

waa creates Playscape, a climbable undulating mound for children’s community centre in Beijing

"In Play you don’t foresee an end product. It allows you to suspend judgment. Often the solution to one problem sparks a possibility for another set of problems... In the actual building of something you see connections you could not possibly have foreseen on that scale, unless you were physically there," Richard Serra.

waa (we architech anonymous) previously completed the MOCA Yinchuan Museum in Yinchuan, China.

Project facts

Client: Beijing NuanQin

Architect: waa (we architech anonymous)

Interior: waa (we architech anonymous)

Location: Langyuan Station, Dongba, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China

Structure Consultant: LAVA Structure

Main Contractor: YJYZ Construction 

Principal Architects: Di Zhang, Jack Young

Team: Minghui Huo, Yuqing Feng, Min Wang, Jing Zhu, Mengbo Cao,  Hualin Yang, Weiya Li, Qiwen Cao, Heff Jin

Structure Team: Jinbin Zhang, Lida Tang

Site Area: 3921.26m2

Gross Floor Area: 2657.47m2

Architectural Schedule: May 2018- Dec 2019

Interior schedule: Jun 2018- Feb.2020

Construction Schedule: Dec 2019- May.2021

All images © Tian FangFang

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