Dezeen Magazine

Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia

Red Dunes Playtopia features "cave-like" play spaces and undulating hills

Sloping red dunes and cavernous spaces feature in this playground, which local studio XISUI Design has created in a residential area in Guangzhou, China.

Built above an underground parking unit, the play area takes cues from natural forms including mountains and caves and comprises a playful arrangement of hills and arches designed for climbing and discovery.

"The design revolves around utilising the undulating red dunes to provide an attractive terrain for children to come and engage in activities such as running, jumping, and playing," studio design director Hu Yihao told Dezeen.

Image of Red Dunes Playtopia
Red Dunes Playtopia was designed by XISUI Design

The studio used a load-bearing concrete shell for the structure of the playground, arranging the openings so that the loads are transferred to the supporting columns of the building below.

"Through concealed structural supports beneath the main weight-bearing concrete shell, the upper weight is precisely transferred to the supporting columns of the underground garage," said Hu.

"This reduces the amount of earthwork volume used, reducing the weight of the load, and ensuring safety and stability."

Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia by XISUI Design
The playground consists of hill-like structures

A variety of areas were hidden beneath the concrete shell, where the undulating topography of the land underneath helps to form organic landscapes designed to evoke the atmosphere of a cave.

Accessed through curved openings between sloping bridges, the covered play space is punctuated by a central white column, where a ladder leads to a white playhouse that sits above the concrete shell and connects to a metal slide.

Photo of the Red Dunes Playtopia by XISUI Design
It has a concrete shell

"The use of undulating concrete shell structures creates cave-like spaces that blend harmoniously with the terrain, offering both climbing opportunities and fantastic sheltered areas," said Hu.

"This design approach ensures seamless integration with the natural topography while minimising structural elements and maximising space utilisation."

The landscape was coloured with a range of red and blue tones arranged in a blocky pattern of curving shapes that follows the topography of the playground.

"Our client expressed an interest in incorporating a celestial theme into the children's play area, specifically referencing the concept of Mars," said Hu.

"To balance the overall colour scheme and avoid excessive dominance of red tones, we also incorporated complementary blue hues to enhance contrast and visual interest."

Photo of the playground
Climbing walls, slides and walkways cover the hills

Up the sides of the shell, ropes and climbing walls provide access to the top of the hill, with white railings placed along the edges of the arches to provide additional safety.

Play equipment, including tunnels, stepping stones, slides, and tactile climbing frames, has been arranged across the rest of the site into zones suited towards different age groups, ranging from toddlers to teenagers.

"We aimed to provide a balanced range of activities that cater to different stages of child development, including exercises that enhance upper and lower body strength, balance, social interaction, and parent-child bonding," added Hu.

Photo of the playground
The playground has an undulating topography

Flattening out towards the edges of the site to simplify access, the topography was designed around these zones, with a smaller hill to one side of the site catering to toddlers and the larger shell on the other end providing more challenging terrain for older children.

While trees are dotted around the play area, the main green spaces were placed around the edges of the site where the ground dips to absorb draining rainfall.

Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia by XISUI Design
Trees surround the playground

"Meticulous calculations and simulations have ensured a comprehensive natural drainage system, effectively managing rainwater flow despite the undulating terrain," said the studio.

"This innovative approach eliminates the need for surface drainage outlets, allowing rainwater to naturally disperse into green spaces and designated peak drainage outlets."

Other playgrounds recently featured on Dezeen include a tree-inspired office playground in Tel Aviv and a series of giant rocks on wheels designed to encourage adventurous play.

The photography is by Hu Yihao.

More images and plans

Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia
Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia
Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia
Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia
Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia
Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia
Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia
Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia
Photo of Red Dunes Playtopia