Is it still called a ‘playground’ if the play area is not actually on the ground?
Chinese architecture firm Unarchitecte has created a 5,000 square metre park in the province of Guangdong that allows visitors to play alongside the forest canopy.
Designed for a local school in Mount Luofu, the whimsical structure features a series of white nets laid out like a maze weaved around trees. The nets vary too, with some looking like spider webs and tubes, and others like baskets and domes.
The result is a place that encourages children to finally put down their gadgets and enjoy the great outdoors.
“A forest can become a place for children to return to nature, to explore and to think, to sweat, and to sit still alone,” the firm told Lost At E Minor. “In nature, they can forget themselves and can also search for their inner selves.”
We spoke to Unarchitecte recently to learn more about their climbing wonderland.
Please tell us more about studio Unarchitecte. How would you describe your work?
“Unarchitecte, as an innovative combination of young architects, was founded in Beijing by the practice who won several domestic and international design awards.
“What we admire is innovative research and real, impeccable construction. What we oppose is vulgar plagiarism and imitation in any form.
“Whatever we face, latest or ancient, we treat it all with openness and respect. Paying attention to urban changes, landscape consequences and spatial feeling, we, at the same time, focus on original, precise and unpretentious design.
“We study the essential and significant elements of any item or environment, integrally balancing considerations and explorations from all angles, so as to unveil the path towards new material, new function, new way, new form and new experience.
“We spare no effort to broaden the boundaries of design, to provide the client with rational, professional and tasteful services, and furthermore, to create reflecting and inspiring works for the whole society.”
The Climbing Park of Luofo Mountain was commissioned by a school. What was the project brief?
“Lying in mountains with a lake by side, the school affiliated to Luofu Mountain Chinese Classics Institute in Guangdong province is surrounded by the forest. Hundreds of evergreen trees flourish in one of the valleys.
“The school authorities expect this valley to be available for outdoor activities, which enable students to get close to nature and enjoy physical education.
“So we built a climbing system, we connected all the trees in the valley with hundreds of diverse white triangle nets to constitute a combination of various topological folding surfaces like a ‘white sea’ for children to swim carefree.
“Hanging baskets located in high or low levels are called ‘wormholes’ by students. These cages are linked to each other in several round yards at the bottom of the valley. A slender ladder slides straight down from the top of one side of the valley to the swings on the sand above, which an octagonal glass maze stands on a suspended square; next to the sand dune is the trampoline platform.
“What’s more, two huge spiral tubes and hemispherical tents embrace students inside of them, floating among the crowns of trees as crystal jellyfishes drifting on the sea.”
What inspired you to make a playground out of nets?
“A forest can become a place for children to return to nature, to explore and to think, to sweat, and to sit still alone.
“In nature, they can forget themselves and can also search for their inner selves. Children would climb or stop at their own will, having their breath in step with the whole forest. Leaving everything behind, they may rest anywhere in the forest.
“It’s an opportunity to fit into nature in different heights, when they help squirrels build nests, sing with birds, lie in the sunshine, and get to know each other while playing. Unconsciously, they would grow up physically strong and mentally positive.”
How sustainable is the playground?
“Except those already withered, no tree was felled due to the construction. Triangular nets were weaved carefully around trees, fixed by wires that were fastened on sleepers to protect the plants. Extra pillars were placed where there was no tree strong enough to link.
“It took one year to construct the system, combining the network with trees into an organic whole. Then all trees in the valley managed to get over gusts of typhoons.
“Getting rid of specific beginnings and ends, this system can spread and grow with the forest. Design is more than drawing up a plan. It also involves reshaping in construction and redefining in use, during which architects weave and climb to explore in concepts.
“The network has started growing since it came into being and extends. Therefore, this climbing park will present no final form. It will grow with the forest and children alike.”
What type of impact would you like this project to have on children and adults, as well as the local community?
“This cute valley is a paradise for adults as well. Many parents who came with their children from surrounding cities have also retrieved their own joy of childhood. So they have one more place to communicate with nature in Luofu Mountain. Here, everyone is a child.”