This handicapped-accessible exterior playground is located in the South Bronx in an unused alley behind an existing preschool for emotionally disturbed children. The recycled plastic play deck and ramps are surrounded by a fully developed aromatic garden and include discreet areas for gross motor activities, tactile stimulation, quiet activities as well as group activities.
The neighborhood is characterized by a neglected and decaying urban environment. The 150’ x 15’ fully enclosed rear yard originally contained unstable earth fill sloped at 45 degrees across the 15’ dimension. Earth removal was impractical given the inaccessible site. Leveling the site was unfeasible in that it undermined adjoining uphill structures and overloaded the existing downhill building wall. The possibilities of structured retaining walls and reinforcing piers were eliminated because of cost.
In addition to conventional concrete piers and a galvanized steel super structure, recycled thermoplastic evolved as a practical alternative to wood given its resilient character, durability, color and cost advantage. It is used as sheathing, bearing walls, and in specially-engineered structural configurations which accommodate the material’s limited strength. Recycled materials also include plastic mesh (geotextiles) and automobile tires (resilient paving surfaces). For the masts, bonded fiberglass tubes with an ultraviolet resistant polyester wrapping were developed to provide strength with low weight to ease manual assembly.
Project constraints are resolved through a conceptual strategy that emphasizes the linear nature of the site while providing open green space and activity areas for children. The recycled plastic play deck and ramps are surrounded by a fully developed aromatic garden. Level surfaces are created through the insertion of a deck into the site which overlays a modified existing grade condition. The playground includes discreet areas for gross motor activities, tactile stimulation, quiet activities and group activities. In addition to conventional concrete piers and a galvanized steel upper structure, recycled thermoplastic is used as sheathing, bearing walls, and in specially engineered structural configurations, which accommodate the material’s limited strength.
The existing grade is formed into a series of folded planes, which generate sloped planting areas as well as ramped surfaces needed for ascent to the upper deck. The ramp energizes the connective route between activities along its length as one moves from lower to upper levels. The vertical separation between the ground plane and the deck creates enclosed spaces and the opportunity for climbing, sliding, gardening and other creative play.
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