Carve reinvigorate a Van Eyck paddling pool as a magnet for city kids

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In the 1950s, 60s and 70s almost all Amsterdam city parks, including Oosterpark, have had playful additions designed by the famous Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck. Employed by the Municipality of Amsterdam, Van Eyck designed more than 700 public play zones between 1947 and 1978. They illustrate his vision on the use of a city, in which play zones become a present architectonically interesting urban element, that brings together young and old. Especially Van Eyck’s paddling pools function as true magnets for children during summertime, and his climbing igloos have become an intrinsic part of the youth of Amsterdam city kids generations.

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During the last decades, however, many of Van Eyck’s play zones disappeared: in 2001 only about 90 were left. The remaining ones faced additions of play elements like slides and other standard play equipment. Despite their success, surprisingly few paddling pools have been retained – mainly because they are costly in maintenance. The remaining paddling pools, among which the Vondelpark, Amsterdam Forest and Oosterpark pools, can be counted on one hand. Recently, however, there is a new appreciation for these facilities: they prove to be so attractive to the youth of Amsterdam that the municipality decided to invest in them.

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Making changes and additions to Van Eyck’s playgrounds, which are now regarded as cultural-historical monuments, is a delicate assignment. This also counts for upgrading the paddling pool in the Oosterpark, that – with its typical stepping stones and concrete edge – is situated on an important monumental axis between the music chapel and the historic buildings of the Tropenmuseum and the Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen. In 2012 Carve was asked to design an addition to the original, somewhat neglected pool, as part of the complete revitalisation of the Oosterpark.

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The design aims to keep the existing pool in its original state, and adding an element that respects the scale and shape of the original design, while at the same time adds a new function fitting the new Zeitgeist. The result is a universal object, that does not dictate any specific use. In this way climbing, running and sliding are united in one sculptural element, that refreshes the design of the old paddle pool and adds a new layer to it. In the edge of the basin and in the climbing holes of the shiny white object water sprayers are integrated, which evoke extra play and movement. Also in the new seating edge, made from natural stone, a minimal addition has been made of play-programmed LED lights. The revitalised paddling pool reclaimed its function as a magnet for city kids – throughout the year.

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Oosterpark Paddling Pool | Amsterdam-East, The Netherlands | Carve

Design Firm | Carve
Team | Elger Blitz, Thomas Tiel Groenestege, Lucas Beukers, Jasper van der Schaaf, Mark van der Eng,
Marleen Beek

Client | Municipality of Amsterdam

Design renovation / extension Oosterpark | Buro Sant en Co landschapsarchitecten
Design | 2012-2015
Completion | September 2015

Photography | Carve (Marleen Beek), Carve (Jasper van der Schaaf)
© carve