Children’s exploration of nature through play has been the foundation of the design of new play spaces in the Görväln nature reserve in Järfälla municipality, Stockholm. Winding tracks lead visitors through the landscape and offer them places to explore and be amazed by nature, build their own little nests or discover small, almost magical, areas for imaginative play.
The design is based on the concept that additions to the landscape should be something in-between the orderly and the wild, to act as a bridge to explore the natural environment through play. Even though the place should be unprogrammed, interactive and harmonize with the natural and wild surroundings, but it’s also important that it feels welcoming and well cared for. It should signal to adults that they are invited to enjoy the space, but also participate in the making of the place.
One example of this is the nest-structures. Children don’t need any man-made things to build a nest or a hut to play in. Some stick, a few branches and their imagination are enough. But to adults, this kind of environment can appear messy or disorganized and invoke the feeling that the place is not being cared for. To meet the preferences of both children and adults, nest-structures are added, as a framework for the children to build their own play-spaces. The municipality provides a pantry of building materials found in nature, so that the children can have things to building with, without having to disturb the surrounding nature. The nest-structures are inspired by animal dwellings, like the den or the burrow, but are given an abstract shape to let children’s imagination roam free in the building process.
There are lots of other activities available as well. Visitors can take a closer look at the natural processes by looking through a glass panel on raised viewing boxes where they can see insects moving through the soil. Or they can try the obstacle course that winds its way through logs and stones. “The reflector” is a steel container that collects rainwater to create a reflection of the sky, or the imagination of children can also turn it into a pot to make “soup” with leaves and pinecones.
To engage the imagination and play even more, small animal sculptures are scattered throughout the forest. The badger hides behind a rock, the hare can be glimpsed in between the pine trunks and the cheeky squirrel has taken a seat at the picnic table. To learn more about the surroundings, you can wind up the hand crank speaker and listen to stories of the local history or the sounds that the native animals make.
The play path through Sandviken forest starts with a portal to welcome you, and then continues with a wooden path that will lead you through the coniferous forest to a picnic place. Along the path, you find the nest-structures that invites you to co-create and build your own nest to play in. In Slammetorp, the path leads you at the edge of the forest and an open field. It’s an obstacle course that will challenge your balance by leading you around rocks and logs and to climb in nets and ropes to reach “discovery-nodes” in the wooded hillside.
Project location: Görväln nature reserve, Järfälla
Design year: 2018-2019
Year Built: 2020-2021