“The Land of Eagles” playground was built in the Bolshoye Kuzemkino village, located on the Kurgalsky Nature Reserve border in the Leningrad region, Russia, under Community and Social Infrastructure Development Program. The project was designed to fill the lack of infrastructure for communication and healthy leisure in the village, to create a meeting point for the local community, and promote the development and cohesion of the local community and the connection of generations. So, an important condition of the project was the involvement of local community in its creation. The project was initiated and supported by Nord Stream 2 AG within its Environmental and Community Initiatives Program in Leningrad Region.
During the discussion of the project the architects of the Bureau Chekharda found out that local residents valued the surrounding nature very much and would like the new space to reflect the unique features of their region and to be not only a playground, but a meeting point for the whole community also. The Kurgalsky Nature Reserve, known for its variety of birds, inspired architects. They created a playground with play elements decorated with log pattern resembling twisted nests, using natural materials and taking into consideration needs of the community. A clearing between the settlement and the forest, was chosen to allocate the playground.
As a result, we can see a playground with functional elements, unique design and idea which became a showplace of the village.
The playground lures the child into the coppice area with its low pines, bushes, and soft moss. The play among the hills at the edge of the forest, where different soils and vegetation collide, is exciting in itself. The architects of the Bureau Chekharda took into consideration the specifics of the ecotone and children’s developmental psychology while zoning play areas. Among young pine trees and mounds, there is a cozy area secluded enough for toddlers, and yet open for parent control, with a slide, a sandbox and a filling station.
In a large open glade, where there is enough space for running, there are play elements for children of 5 to 15 years old. A large climbing frame made of logs with partially preserved twigs imitates a forest windbreak, and is complicated enough to challenge elder children.
The part of the site hidden in the forest targets age 7 to 15. It consists of four towers connected by bridges. A living tree is included in one of the towers. From the platform of the towers, a view over a cozy meadow opens.
The cladding of the towers was designed using parametric script which replicates a nest weaving pattern. It seems as if the birds themselves began to decorate the towers and built their nests here. The décor of the towers refers to the special feature of the Kurgalsky Nature Reserve – several families of white-tailed eagle’s nest here.
The three zones are so intertwined with the landscape that it feels like children are playing not on the playground, but in the forest, and the architectural elements complement this play, making it more intense, exciting and diverse. The usage of topography creates the feeling of being completely absorbed in the landscape. At the same time, playing on the playground is much safer than in the forest. Despite its wild look, the created playground meets all state safety standards. During the project implementation, the existing landscape remained intact: not a single tree was damaged, the relief of the forest edge was preserved.
The development project was implemented in close cooperation with local residents, according to the principle “Nothing for us without us!”. Collaboration with community representatives included a walk to select the site’s location; a series of discussions to determine main functions of the future public space; master classes that contributed to the development of an understanding of the essence of natural spaces. When the site was almost finished, an “Open construction” event was held, during which children of Bolshoye Kuzemkino helped to complete the work. They stretched the ropes, sanded hemps, spread wood chips.
The site was built of natural materials with respect for nature and, according to the architects, contributes to the formation of responsibility towards nature. In addition, the playground fitted into the larger project of the Kurgalsky Nature Reserve development.
Project location: 59.583220, 28.179380
Design year: 2019
Year Built: 2020