Dezeen Magazine

The Folds by Atelier Scale seen from above

Atelier Scale designs The Folds playground to encourage tactile play

Atelier Scale has created The Folds, a small community playground in Changzhou, China, as a place for children to explore in a more tactile and less regulated way than usual.

The studio deliberately minimised the use of playground equipment to allow children to play with the folded shapes of the place itself.

View of The Folds by Atelier Scale
The Folds' shape was informed by waves

"We believe that the folding landform can encourage children to perceive the space with their hands and feet," Atelier Scale founding partner Huicheng Zhong told Dezeen.

"Children can run, climb, play hide and seek, and decide how to have fun by themselves. We hope that this space will not be bound by function or program, with less purpose and more instinct."

Grass by The Folds by Atelier Scale
It features less equipment than regular playgrounds

The Folds has been shortlisted for the Dezeen Awards 2020 in the landscape project category.

The shape of the playground, which features plenty of hiding spaces and nooks as well as a separate seating area with a fountain, was inspired by the movement of water.

"An abstract field of wave is the initial idea for the folding landform," Zhong said. This was partly developed due to time constraints, as the studio was only given one month to construct the playground.

Exploring The Folds by Atelier Scale
Children are encouraged to explore the space

"We came up with a simple design strategy – a repetitive pattern of folding gesture, which not only makes material fabrication and arrangement much easier and cheaper but also makes construction more predictable and controllable," Zhong explained.

"The modular approach didn't restrict the creativity of the design, we have developed interesting variations based on the folding modules."

Seating at The Folds by Atelier Scale
A seating area features an undulating shape and a decorative fountain

Atelier Scale used plastic timber in a light wood colour for the folding decks to create a "warm and safe" atmosphere.

"Plastic timber is a material that looks almost like wood, but with longer duration than normal wood material, with a similar price," Zhong said.

The Folds by Atelier Scale seen from above
Sturdy plastic timber was used to build the playground

Metal safety fences and edges were painted a bright yellow hue.

The Folds, which is located in the corner of the central public space of a mega residential development, has already been turned into a number of different play spaces by local children.

Child playing at The Folds by Atelier Scale
There's plenty of spaces for children to discover

"The spaces were explored by the kids with their own sense and motivation," Zhong said. "The neutral spaces were observed as a cave, a valley, a slide, and a house, by different children."

Atelier Scale is a landscape architecture studio based in Los Angeles.

Other contenders for the Dezeen Awards 2020 in the landscape project category include the undulating public square Karen Blixens Plads and Snøhetta's cantilevered viewing platform in Austria.

More images and plans

Section of The Folds by Atelier Scale
Plan of The Folds by Atelier Scale
Section of The Folds by Atelier Scale