Whispering Stumps playground in Yekaterinburg

Mega is the biggest shopping center in the city of Yekaterinburg (owned by IKEA, Sweden). Having decided to set up a park in front of the building & to reconstruct façade & main entrance, Mega addressed to Bureau Chekharda to build playground.

To precise aims, demands & expectations of the client the Bureau practiced participatory planning & design, for this held some workshops & meetings.


The goal of the project: to create multifunctional playground for children of different age with a landmark that will attract attention & identify the territory of a new park.

1. To reflect the uniqueness of the region (Ural) & home country of the brand (Sweden).
2. To design friendly space for children with disabilities (rare thing in Russia).
3. To reflect client’ values on sustainability & ecology.
4. To create unusual playground to amaze children & adults.

Bureau Chekharda designs & builds raw nature playgrounds which compensate for the lack of pure nature in urban life. The usage of unultered natural geometry trees is our unique feature. To work with raw materials we implement innovative digital technologies.
We don’t place standard playing equipment on our playgrounds but create art objects that have both artistic & playing value. Unfinished but still recognizable forms tell children scenarios of play awakening their fantasy.

How the demands were met?
1. Concept
We made deep dive in Ural & Scandinavian mythology & found much common in them. Whispering Stumps concept represents magic forest spirits, images of alive nature. Gnarled rough forms help to create the required image & make contrast with modern building.

2. Architectural solution
The giant stumps, grandfather & grandson, dominate the whole park. It was our intention not to portray well-known heroes. You may see stumps, beasts or even rockets.
The Big Stump is a 9 m high observation tower faced with oak logs, with a multilevel climbing labyrinth inside and three exits – to the slide, to the tunnel, and to the observation point. The Small Stump is a 4.5 m high tower stuffed with climbing systems, walls and a recreation podium.
The composition of two stumps makes atmosphere a bit dramatized & intense. One can feel a link between objects, they seem to look at each other.

3. Planning solution.
The playground (500 sq.m. in total) consists of four areas:
1) “Stones’ Glade” section designed for youngest visitors imitates the experience of walking along a mountain ridge;
2) “Sand World” – inclusive play zone;
3) “Stump clearing” – the central section that reminds a forest meadow covered with snags, stumps and tree roots;
4) “Windfall” – a climbing sector with natural tree logs and rope nets for elder children.
We dared to place the highest object in the narrowest part of the playground. This made a kind of quiet backyard for teenagers (the group that is often forgotten about).

4. Solution for children with disabilities
To provide access to the playground for children on wheelchairs, we surrounded it by wooden deck. The diagonal deck invites to get inside, there are playing elements for children with disabilities on the right & on the left of it. We managed to find equipment that would be comfortable to use both by children with disabilities & normal children & thus made true inclusive zone.

5. Usage of innovative digital technologies to work with basic raw nature materials is the specific feature of Bureau Chekharda. This helps us to treat trees with care & to make art objects that surpass safety norms.

Constructing from unaltered natural geometry trees
It’s more difficult to design from natural form, to calculate load points & physical properties. Along with this, playing elements should correspond with strict safety standards written for the linear geometry playgrounds. To make complex calculating of non-linear forms one needs digital technologies & 3D modelling software.

To find suitable trees at forest plot we use 3D scanning of growing trees & photogrammetry. This helps us to choose right trees for future playing structures, to calculate points of rope fastenings & joints. Then sketch design & shop drawing are developed. Only when we finally make sure that this definite tree suits for the playing element, careful tree extraction follows. This approach helps us to minimize harm to nature.

Usage of parametric technologies & scripts to design non-linear objects from unpredictable geometry forms
To make our stumps look extraordinary we used parametric modelling. We wrote algorithm of placing logs, then the program calculated thickness & height of logs, spacings between joints. Then the algorithm was applied to basic 3D-volume, the structure of metallic frame was elaborated as well as system of stump facing with wooden elements. In this way we could lay non-linear oak logs on the non-linear surface of stumps by one clickbutton & all rough oak logs created interesting parametrical surface.

6.Sustainable architecture
The playground truly corresponds to the principles of sustainable architecture. Only natural materials that сan be safely recycled or disposed are used: wood, metal, ropes, woodchips & sand. Neither plastic nor rubber covering are applied. Due to digital technologies & careful selection of the trees before cutting we treat natural resources sparingly.



Project category: Schools & Playgrounds
Entrant: Bureau Chekharda
Role of the entrant in the project: Architectural concept & project, production, construction
Project location: Metallurgov street 87, Yekaterinburg, Russia
Design year: 2018
Year Built: 2018


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