Landscape Architect & Specifier News

JAN 2013

LASN is a photographically oriented, professional journal featuring topics of concern and state-of-the-art projects designed or influenced by registered Landscape Architects.

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playground Using Nature to Nurture Above Led by Stream Design Landscape Architecture, nine months of design and installation work at the Waldorf School in Denver, Colorado, provided the school's kindergarten students with a new play area designed to inspire active play in an interactive, naturalistic environment. Photo CreDit: BruCe KeLLey Landscape Architecture by Stream Design Located in central Denver's Congress Park neighborhood just east of the Botanical Gardens, the Denver Waldorf School (DWS) decided its outdoor playground space no longer met the needs of the curriculum. Stream Design Landscape Architecture was selected to bring DWS's educational concepts into a fully functioning natural outdoor kindergarden classroom and playground that reflected the native characteristics of Denver and Colorado. Design team members were invited to observe and participate in classroom activities and discuss the project with teachers to fully understand the needs of the Denver Waldorf children and staff. Since kindergarten-aged children experience their worlds through movement, balance, and touch, the school's focus on "outdoor learning" was an important touchstone through the sixmonth design process. A variety of illustrative tools, including hand drawings, SketchUp/3D designs, and photo simulations led to the final design. DWS and Stream chose to avoid overtly themed play structures and bright decorations in favor of a dynamic playscape where children could discover the world without artificial distractions. 24 Landscape Architect and Specifier News Building for Imagination Despite a limited budget, materials and construction methods were chosen to satisfy an initial goal of allnatural materials in the play area. The design team managed to fulfill the goal almost entirely using custom wood play elements, decking, and fencing with soy based low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) protective finishes. The team collaborated with the school's maintenance and management teams to establish what was possible and necessary for the play area, and plan for proper upkeep of the structures, since wood features in the dry Colorado climate require additional care. Incorporating naturalistic play surfaces like masonry walls also created more natural and playable environments. Even the grade control elements are boulders that are fun to climb on, and provide a different tactile experience, creating "rooms" that can serve a kindergarteners' imagination. The only plastics in the structures are in the slide chutes, the swing belts and tire, and the water pump – all necessary to fulfill safety or budget requirements. Stream also designed a wood/ chain link hybrid fence that met zoning requirements and still matched the woody aesthetic. (Continued on page 26)

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