Corvus Design Blog

November 8, 2015

DOKK1 – Aarhus’ New Library for All

Titled as the library of tomorrow, this structure is a visually spectacular addition to the Aarhus waterfront. Walking up to it you realize that there is a train station under it, and perhaps someone will tell you that the parking below it is fully automated for 1000 cars. Fully automated. You put your car in a slot, get out, and away it goes!

One of the visually striking features for the building is how the roof extends out and over the building’s base. When you climb the outside stairs, you see that this overhang shelters a number of different play areas. These are developed by Monstrum. They are known for visually striking play structures that they custom design and build for their projects. They’re also known for very popular playscapes that can be crawling with children.

From a child’s perspective, I imagine that these play elements are bombastic! From Monstrum’s website:

“Globe” is a great playground with the library as the center. The playground is divided into five main play areas, each representing a specific compass direction.

Each play area is a story about the specific area. There areas offers different play opportunities, so that users get different play experiences depending on where you choose to play.

The playground contains small fragments and stories about nature, animals, landscapes, geology, culture and much more. The aim is to inspire, arouse children’s and adults’ knowledge desire while creating space and opportunity for play and exercise.

In the design of play areas, the emphasis is on the integration of play opportunities for children with different disabilities. At the same time we have focused on the availability on the playground with level access and a sitting area in the playground equipment.

The five areas are connected with a world tour around the house, which is marked in the floor and with stories and fun facts.

As an adult (and play designer) from North America, I look at this and I’m blown away with the beauty and that this kind of playground isn’t a rarity in Europe. I look at items and assess their potential “liability” implications, and feel a certain visual freedom that these items CAN be made and that they exist somewhere!

But… I’m also quite mixed for some things. Are they incredibly expensive one-hit wonders where the large bear is really just a slide? The eagle just a super cool climber, next to the pyramidal wooden structure that is another climber (and fort)? They are iconic, and provide an amazing place for creative play. But… what if creative play or climbing isn’t your thing.

I can’t really assess the playground (or any playground) fully without understanding the design criteria that the designers sought to fulfill. With where my brain is currently… I look at these and I wish I could speak with the designers about how they approach inclusive play and play for all. What is the Danish culture toward accessibility and inclusiveness?

Like good art… I have more questions in my brain right now than I do have responses. I need to educate myself.

Here are some photos. It’s pretty awesome.