Abenteuerspielplatz “Kolle 37”

Kollwitzstrasse 35 - 37
Berlin, Germany

Submitted by: Sally Smith

A park and adventure playground where kids can do everything from build a tree house to learn to cook.

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Why It Works

Playgrounds are often a child’s first introduction to public spaces, where youngsters discover the joys and responsibilities of community places. Kolle 37 is an interactive park and clubhouse complex, where children of all ages, their families, and community members can engage in a variety of activities, from building a tree house to cooking a healthy meal. The word “Abenteuerspielplatz” means ‘adventure playground,’ and the guiding philosophy behind the park is that children should be exposed to the many ‘dangerous’ elements of life---hammers, live animals, fire---in a safe and supervised atmosphere. Kolle 37 is a perfect example of how parks can bring adults and children together to play and learn.

What Makes Abenteuerspielplatz “Kolle 37” a Great Place?

The park is located directly between a subway station and the neighborhood’s main square, on a tree lined street that has regular foot traffic, many cafes and shops, but relatively little automobile traffic. Kolle 37 is arranged linearly along the street, and although the park is separated from the street by a fence, there are entrances at either end so that park users may enter or leave at multiple places or wander through the park as a detour from the sidewalk. The fence that separates the park from the street is punctuated by openings so pedestrians on the street can be enticed in and the park occupants can monitor the street activity. Most importantly, although Kolle 37 is a relatively small space, it functions as part of a larger park ‘complex,’ connected via a lively street filled with sidewalk cafes to the neighborhood’s central square and open air market just a block away. It is these connections that turn the abenteuerspielplatz from an isolated park into part of a bustling network of public spaces and street life in the heart of the neighborhood.

One of the most pleasant aspects of Kolle 37 is the complete comfort and conviviality that its users demonstrate. Small children are often seen running around in bathing suits and older children who have been coming to the park for many years are usually known by name to each other and the staff. Women and children come to the abenteuerspielplatz alone, and although the park contains some lovely nooks and crannies for hiding, the large number of park occupants and the watchful staff keeps these spaces from being secluded or dangerous. Bathrooms are located in the clubhouse, which also provides space for activities in bad weather. It is Kolle 37’s staff however, who give the space an intangible spirit of creativity and personality. The park is the brainchild of a grassroots organization, a group of teachers and community activists who wanted to create an exciting and safe place for children to play. Their love of kids and fun is visible in every corner of the park.

All activities at Kolle 37 are designed to combine learning with play. The abenteuerspielplatz’s centerpiece is the collection of magnificent wooden playhouses that have been built and rebuilt by many generations of youngsters under the guidance of the Kolle 37 staff. The park also includes a pit for bonfires, a community garden and compost heap, a small lawn for relaxing, a collection of large pens for the resident rabbits, picnic benches for eating, and a fountain for sailing boats and other water play. A small hill has been built for climbing on, with a water spigot at the top. This spigot can send water down the hill and into the large sandbox. Kolle 37 also provides space for indoor activities in the clubhouse, including classes in cooking, music, arts and crafts, and parenting for adults. The park is also a special place where other community events take place, such as lectures, concerts, and discussion groups.

Every day a simple meal is cooked and offered to those in the park during the hour just after school lets out, and the meal is often a time when newcomers will share their names and a bit about themselves. The many interactive projects that one can engage in—gardening, building a fort, creating sand sculptures, feeding the rabbits—all encourage sharing and teamwork. And like all good playgrounds, Kolle 37 is not just for children. The park plays a critical role by allowing parents to socialize, share experiences, and develop new friendships while their children play. Adults without children are welcome as well, and many people both alone and in groups are constantly seen walking through, enticed by the amazing play structures and activities, or stopping to enjoy the many comfortable resting places. Most importantly, the park is a safe learning atmosphere, where children who might not otherwise have somewhere to go after school can learn how to do things from starting a fire to making paper mache. The creative energy and community entrepreneurship of Kolle 37 has spun itself off into another venture; older children have started a bicycle renting shop that is now located just outside the abenteuerspielplatz’s fence.

History & Background

Kolle 37 is located in a neighborhood in the former East Berlin called Prenzlauer Berg, which has over the past 50 years undergone many demographic changes. Before the fall of the wall the area was inhabited by a combination of artists and students, as well as more traditional working class families who had lived in the area for many years. The original concept for Kolle 37 came from the performance artists, teachers, and community activists who used to tour the neighborhood with a “spielwagen,” a portable playground that was used to engage children of all ages. Eventually the founders of the spielwagen decided they needed something more permanent, secured public funding, and opened Kolle 37. Since the reunification of Berlin the area has become increasingly gentrified, with many couples with young children entering the neighborhood. Everyone seems to be united by their common love of the area, but Kolle 37 must now serve a diverse group of children who come from many different backgrounds. Its function as a space where the community can learn together is more important now than ever.

Contact Info:

Abenteuerlicher Bauspielplatz Kolle 37
Kollwitzstrasse 35 - 37
D - 10405 Berlin
Tel: +49-(0)30-44 28 122

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