J. Mayer H. Designs Fun-Filled Playscape for Volkswagen

An interactive playscape that packs visual delight and a healthy dose of sustainability

It looks like a parent’s nightmare, but it’s sure to be a hit among children. Architect J. Mayer H. has completed an interactive, sculptural playground at Volkswagen’s Autostadt campus in Wolfsburg, Germany. The jungle gym’s abstract shapes—equal parts Dr. Seuss and Jean Arp—rise elegantly from the Autostadt museum’s atrium floor, veering this way and that like branches of a cartoonish tree. The giant tendril-like arms, connected by elevated bridges, conceal steeply inclined passageways and slides. There are few safety nets or handrails in sight, and ropes anchored to the blobs encourage young visitors to scale their sides. Hopefully, a scraped knee will be the worst of this playscape’s adventures-gone-wrong. (Building code surely ensures that that’s the extent of the damage, in any case.)

Mayer, along with sports science professor Renate Zimmer of Osnabrück University, designed the installation as a ludic overture to Volkswagen’s Level Green exhibit, open on the floor above. Level Green, also by Mayer, consists chiefly of information screens flashing images, video, and data which convey the urgency of sustainability to visitors. Recyclability, for instance, is crucial to the exhibit’s theme, and even factors into the shape of the room. (The design is a cerebral reimagining of the iconic recycle symbol, which has been contorted here beyond all recognition, retaining only the neon green color scheme.) The new play area, called the MobiVersum, ties into this hook by acting as “an active introduction to the subject of sustainability in all its facets for children of all ages,” says Mayer. The gnarled shapes may look like polished steel, but engaging with the structure reveals that the blob are actually made of painted solid wood, a renewable material.

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The idea is to create a varied, “learning” playground that yields a different sensory experience for each child. “Depending on their individual level of development, children can interact freely with the installation on various levels,” Mayer explained in a statement. The MobiVersum is part of a larger educational youth program that also includes cooking classes and, of course, driving lessons.

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