Chinese architectural practice unarchitecte has recently designed a 5000 sqm climbing park for the School Affiliated to Luofu Mountain Chinese Classics Institute in Guangdong province, China. Inside the school, hundreds of evergreen trees flourish in a tiny valley. The school authorities hope to make use of the valley for outdoor activities so that children can enjoy happy physical education.
So, the forest can become a place for children to return to nature, to explore and to think, to sweat and to sit still alone. In nature, they can forget themselves and can also search for their inner selves.
Building a climbing system, architects connect all the trees in the valley by hundreds of diverse white triangle nets to constitute a combination of various topological folding surfaces like a “white sea” for children to swim carefree.
Hanging baskets located in high or low levels are called “wormholes” by students. These cages are linked to each other in several round yards at the bottom of the valley. A slender ladder slides straight down from the top of one side of the valley to the swings on sand above which an octagonal glass maze stands on a suspended square; next to the sand dune is the trampoline platform. What’s more, two huge spiral tubes and hemispherical tents embrace students inside of them, floating among the crowns of trees as crystal jellyfishes drifting on the sea.
Thanks to the system, children have intimate access to the great nature in different height, to make houses for squirrels, to sing with birds and to enjoy the sunshine glistening through the leaves. In a rough-and-tumble play, they build up friendship and learn to help each other; in silence exposed in nature, they picture the truth of beauty. Unconsciously, they grow up physically strong and mentally positive.
No tree was cut down during the construction except those already withered. In the basic climbing system, every side of triangle nets is fixed on a tree by solid steel wire ropes with sleepers in order to protect the plants. When the gap between trunks was too wide or the trunk was not strong enough, unarchitecte set columns to serve as supplemental support posts.
The entire forest is a unit, with a second safety net under the higher system. Multiple exits set on the ground and in the aerial structure were set for the convenience of circulation. In addition, the scope of activities is defined by yards and corridors on the ground, which is easy to administrate and to ensure the safety of students.
“This cute valley is a paradise for adults as well,” explains unarchitecte. “Many parents who came with their children from surrounding cities have also retrieved their own joy of childhood. So you have one more place to communicate with nature in Luofu Mountain. Here, everyone is a child.”
all images © Zhang Hetian