The Rio Madrid park along the banks of the River Manzanares is a wonderful example of how to make a city more play friendly for all ages. One of the highlights for me was the Toboganes slides which are situated just south of the Arguanzela Bridge (the Double Helix) on the East bank. The area was designed by Richter-Spielgerate and typifies the detail and care they put into their designs.
If you look at the first photo, you can see that the steps are uneven. Playground features are commonly criticised for having evenly spaced steps which do not sufficiently test a child’s coordination and perception skills. If you don’t wish to climb the steps, you can try the thin cobbled areas beside the middle slide or the wider sloped cobbles beside the slide on the right. Be warned – this area is steeper and trickier to climb than it looks.
When viewed from below, they simulate layers of bedrock that have become an upthrust on a geological fault line. Geology meets play! This bank adds a challenging way of getting to the top by scrambling up the layers and around, under and over the slides.
The overall affordance of the playscape is high. By this I mean a person using this area is spoilt for choice! Aside from the landscaped rock, each slide is different in height, incline, shape and size. The shrubs add texture but do not interfere with the climbing and sliding so can grow in peace. They soften the landscape and add value to this feature through their presence.
At the top, more choices exist. The holes to the tunnel slides look inviting but the myriad of paths add to the decision making needed to decide which slide to go down. I like that many of the slides do not have sit bars – the barrier at the top which is meant to stop children from tumbling down. In my experience these bars are always used to launch oneself harder and faster anyway.
The other feature I liked was the abundance of corners and rough edges. Very often people worry about children hurting themselves on sharp rocks. Whilst playing here I did get a nasty shin graze. It’s granite rock. But it is also a reminder to take care and that no place is or should ever be risk free. To give you an idea how popular this area is when school’s out, have a look at this video clip: