When designing playgrounds, our priority is always the play value over the design ego. Our latest project in Eastern Siberia is a celebration of endless play that harmoniously blends with the natural environment.
The project’s name, “Igral Baikal”, is a play on words that transforms Lake Baikal’s name into a playful rhyme with the Russian word for play. Located approximately 150 km from the lake, the playground serves as an attraction in the city of Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Republic of Buryatia in Russia. Despite the significant distance between the project site and our office in Moscow, we managed to carry out the project from the first sketch to construction and successfully transformed the neglected park into a safe and friendly environment for families to spend time outdoors.
Our primary objectives for the project were to create an attractive destination that would meet the needs of families and local residents, revitalize the park’s infrastructure, and set new standards for play spaces in the region. However, preserving the existing vegetation, adapting to extreme weather conditions, and designing for all-season use were the most significant challenges we had to overcome.
For the project’s design, we took inspiration from the unique landscapes of Buryatia, including the steppes, taiga forests, multi-level mountain ranges, and Lake Baikal itself. The play space features four distinct zones, each reflecting the atmosphere and characteristics of one of these landscapes.
In the Steppe zone, children can play and hide in a large sandbox and tumbleweed ball nests while learning how to operate sand transportation systems and work in teams.
The Taiga zone features vertical elements, equipment racks, and trees that reflect the flora of taiga forests. The wood chip covering adds to the authenticity of the environment, and a variety of swings provide active and engaging recreational activities for children of all ages.
The Ridges zone consists of multi-level terraces filled with boulders and small pebbles that resemble rocky slopes. Children can climb these pyramids, which are protected by ridges that simulate fortress walls, and play with friends.
Finally, the Lake zone personifies Baikal with a spirally flowing stream and large pebbles that create patterns on the bottom of the bowl. Various devices in the water area permit children to control water flows, make dams, and lift liquids using mechanical work. The water canals and steam nozzles enable children to see all the water conditions in nature, making this area a mini-laboratory for science lessons that are open for public access.
All of these play areas are connected by an imaginary railroad, symbolizing the Trans-Siberian railway track between the age zones.
The play landscape balances simplicity and natural elements to maximize opportunities for children to develop their imagination, fantasy and sensory abilities.