One of Hungary's most complex and modern playgrounds has been constructed in the Városliget through the Liget Budapest Project. The playground will be opened to families on 26 October, the first day of the autumn school holiday, reported László Baán, the ministerial commissioner for the Liget Budapest Project. Comprising more than 13,000 square metres of the park, the playground will offer more than 50 remarkable pieces of play equipment. The central element of the Main Playground will be a three-level climbing cage inspired by Pál Szinyei Merse's painting The Balloon. This children's realm in the Városliget offers each age group a separate network of slides, along with nest, circle and hanging swings, seesaws, rope courses, rotating play equipment, equipment for individual and doubles kicking games, trampolines, various sandboxes and water games. The inauguration of the Main Playground will be the first major milestone in the process of making the Városliget family- and child-friendly. Thanks to the Liget Budapest Project, the renewed park will house a total of seven new playgrounds.
As László Baán, ministerial commissioner for the Liget Budapest Project, said: "Europe's most extensive culturally oriented urban development and park rehabilitation project is progressing at an excellent pace. And although we will still have to wait a few more years until the Városliget's comprehensive renewal is complete, the institutions and public spaces that have been delivered so far demonstrate that every aspect of the Liget is going to offer visitors more than ever before, along with better quality. With the delivery of The House of the Hungarian Millennium and the Main Playground, families will get to see for themselves how the factor that makes the project so attractive is the harmonious co-existence of a system of cultural and recreational offerings of unmatched richness with the opportunities for leisure activity related to the renewal of the green space, all developed in accordance with the Városliget's historical traditions. The storied public park has now been fitted out with a modern and innovatively equipped playground, available for use by the public free of charge, that will hold its own against any other in the world."
It is more than the size of the 13,000-square-metre playground that sets it apart from playgrounds in other public parks, as its equpment is also unique. The approximately 50 pieces of playground equipment were selected to develop key competencies and cognitive skills, grouped together as appropriate for different age groups. Awaiting children are six different slides, ten swings and circle swings, four types of rotating play equipment, three sandboxes, seven kinds of individual and doubles kicking games, two large individually designed rope-climbing complexes consisting of half a dozen elements each, ten trampolines sunk into the ground and a gently curving brook with locks and water games. Some of the pieces of equipment are of a special integrated design in order to allow unimpaired and disabled children to play on them together. Other pieces of the unconventional play equipment are also suitable for families to play together on them, with the unique web structures able to support the weight of parents as well. The central climbing frame inspired by Pál Szinyei Merse's painting The Balloon is one of several large climbing frames in the park; for example, the two slide towers for older children are connected together by an individually crafted multi-level three-dimensional climbing web. In addition to encouraging carefree play, this playground equipment is all aimed at developing motor coordination.
"The Liget Budapest Project is being realised as the result of the coordinated work of around one thousand architects, landscape architects, project engineers and other professionals," emphasised Benedek Gyorgyevics, the CEO of Városliget Zrt. "In the preparatory phase, we coordinated the designs with more than 140 non-governmental organisations and were able to incorporate 95% of the more than 500 suggestions and requests they sent us into the final implementation. Participating together in the process of designing the Main Playground were child psychologists, landscape architects, teachers and the children themselves, all working in the interest of creating a modern and integrated world of play that offers families an attractive venue for regular leisure-time activity," he added.
The Main Playground is situated in the southeastern part of the Városliget, in an area near the intersection of Dózsa György Road and Ajtósi Dürer Row, making it accessible from all the nearby promenades, including by users of wheelchairs. In order to assure the children's safety, the area will be protected by a specially designed fence a metre and a half in height and accessible via five separate entrances. The playground's layout was designed so that the smallest children would be able to play in a protected inner circle surrounded by comfortable seating, from where their parents can observe their activities. Moving outward from the inner area, there are attractions intended for older children. Unlike other free playgrounds, the Városliget's Main Playground will feature an animation team, whose task will be to ensure safe play and help families get oriented.
The designers placed great emphasis on providing space for free play and on making sure that the playground – through both its layout and equipment – would stimulate the children's creative energy, with, for example, replica fossils resembling palaeontology finds situated in the sandbox aimed at the youngest children, where they can be unearthed and inspire learning in a fun setting. SMART solutions are also not lacking in this modern play area for the digital generation; for example, the smart slide will measure the children's speed as they descend. Naturally, mothers of infants were also taken into account in the development process: the baby/mother swing allows even newborns a few months old the chance to experience the calm sensation of rocking, and tranquill spots in this part of the park have been partitioned for nursing and changing nappies. In the name of equal opportunity and social integration, great emphasis was also placed on accessibility. Numerous pieces of integrated and wheelchair-accessible play equipment were also installed in this part of the park, allowing children with various disabilities and special needs to play together with their unimpaired counterparts.
The playground equipment was manufactured and delivered by the best-known and most experienced companies in Europe; all of it is safe and conforms to the strictest regulations of both Hungary and the European Union. Benedek Gyorgyevics, the CEO of Városliget Zrt., the company responsible for implementing the Liget Budapest Project reported that the opening of the playground is being preceded by an intensive test phase, in which various groups of pre-schoolers and young schoolchildren are getting the chance to test out the equipment in advance, and the necessary fine tuning is taking place based on their feedback. The CEO added that the opening of the Main Playground is the first major milestone in the process of making the Városliget family- and child-friendly. Through the Liget Budapest Project, the renewed park will get a total of seven new playgrounds.