Playgrounds past their prime are a bummer, not to mention a serious safety hazard for joy-seeking younguns. So when Rotterdam’s Kinderparadijs Meidoorn, an artistic activity center for kids, was in need of an upgrade, it became an opportunity to create a new and improved outdoor fun zone that’s also a smart lesson in upcycling.
The team from local architecture office 2012Architecten was enlisted because of its “pragmatic approach,” says firm representative Karola van Rooyen: Reuse–or “superuse,” as they call it–is an essential part of the design strategy. “We see it as a challenge, and also a means to show to a wider audience what to do with the problem of waste materials.” The existing space was in bad shape, but there were still salvageable elements. “In order to achieve a workable, budget friendly solution, we made an inventory of what was still useable, like the big slide, stones, and concrete spot in the middle we used for the panna cage,” van Rooyen explains.
Sourcing the windmill “wings” came from a tool 2012Architecten developed called “harvest mapping,” used to “scout, track, and trace the nearby area for end of life materials and production excesses.” The oversized, hard-wearing blades were chosen because of their ability to withstand nearly anything that mother nature–or an overeager child–throws at them. “They’re wind- and weather-proof, with an aerodynamic shape that offers lots of possibilities for children to play and use their imagination.” The now-stationary rotors had to pass strict safety regulations before being installed, and the open-air space is fully certified. The fact that the playground also plays up the unique connection between the Netherlands’ long history with wind power is “coincidence,” van Rooyen adds with a wink. “But of course it is nice for PR reasons internationally.”