When creating playgrounds we always put play value over the design ego. Our recent project in Eastern Siberia is though a celebration of endless play embedded in the beauty of natural landscapes. There was no need to compromise any of these aspects of successful play space.

The name «Igral-Baikal» comes from a wordplay. The first word means «play» in Russian, making a playful rhyme with the name of lake Baikal. The lake is around 150 km away from the city of Ulan-Ude, where the playground is located. Baikal, as long as the local nature itself, became the central theme in the project.

Ulan-Ude is the capital of the Republic of Buryatia, Russia. It was the first project 5 500 km away from our office in Moscow, completely different in terms of climate conditions. However, we managed to carry it out from commission to construction in a way that allowed us to contribute a unique play space to the city of Ulan-Ude and get the warmest feedback from the local people.

Main goals of the project

  • – to create a point of attraction: at the moment the city is lacking quality spaces for families to spend time outdoors;
  • – to revive the park: the new playground became the starting point for transformation of the park into a safer and friendlier environment;
  • – to bring new standards of play spaces: in most regions, a playground is perceived as a rubber field with a couple of pieces of equipment while the new project introduced a different approach.

Biggest challenges

  • – preservation of existing vegetation, resulting in the shapes of the main zones and the connecting paths
  • – adaptation to severe climate conditions (extreme temperatures both in summer and winter seasons, strong winds): careful selection of materials and vegetation used, smart orientation of the elements of the playground and multiple barriers and shelters to hide
  • – programming for all-season scenarios, so that the same facilities can be used all year round adapting to the weather conditions

The concept is based on the landscapes characteristics of Buryatia – huge steppes with tumbleweeds and herds of horses, shady taiga, multi-level mountain ranges and the great lake. Each landscape prompts an image and creates the atmosphere for one of the four play zones. It provides contact with nature and the development of sensory abilities, which is in deficiency for a child in the city.

STEPPE. The atmosphere of the Steppe is created by following landscape techniques: a large open space sandbox, low elements, nests in the form of tumbleweed balls. In these nests one can hide and play or observe the world through the small slits between the rods. There is also equipment that introduces children the operation of mechanisms, such as the transportation system, allowing them to establish contacts and develop the ability to work in a team.

TAIGA. This zone is created by the predominance of vertical elements: equipment racks, various types of trees, together making up the flora of the taiga forests. The wood chip covering complements the image of taiga play zone. For active movement and recreation in the center of the site there are different types of swings, interesting and in demand by children from birth to teenagers, also suitable for adults. This is always one of the most popular play areas on the site.

RIDGES. Multi-level terraces of boulders filled with small pebbles and bushes resemble the atmosphere of rocky slopes. The pyramids with sharp peaks symbolize the peaks of mountain ranges. For older children, there are two large pyramids. The pyramids are protected from all sides by ridges, on which you can climb or imagine the fortress walls for playing with friends.

LAKE. Baikal is personified by a spirally flowing stream, which flows from both sides into a large bowl, the bottom is lined with patterns of large pebbles. There are many different devises in the water area, both for individual study and research, and for teamwork. Children learn how to control water flows, make dams and lift liquids using mechanical work. The water in the canals at different times of the year, as well as the steam nozzles, allow to see all the conditions of the water in nature. This play area can be considered as a mini-laboratory for science lessons open for public access.

All play areas are interconnected by a play route – an imaginary railroad between age zones symbolizing the Trans-Siberian railway track.

The play landscape is simple and natural, at the same time, its organization and simplicity provide the maximum opportunity for the development of children’s imagination and fantasy. Simple play with materials taken from nature around is also important and in demand for child development, stress relief, study and learning, sometimes more than expensive equipment.

Project location: Ulitsa Limonova, 1, Ulan-Ude, Buryatia, 670002, Russia

Design year: 2019

Year Built: 2020



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