Design: Berms & Hedges

Along with the stone garden, the two large berms are located at the centre of the playground, surrounded by paths. One of the berms also has a gradually-rising path leading to its top. While the grass surface on its own will not be considered accessible, the berms are because of the accessible path, but this grassed ramp will definitely be helpful for a child or an educator with a mobility device wishing to reach the top.

Originally, we planned to have a single berm. Before the construction of the playground, the centre was expended. The construction crew that worked on that project drove the heavy equipment too close to the existing maple, and in the process leveled a small hill around the tree. Likely imperceptible to the crew, that berm was called “the big hill” by the children and we wanted to bring that story back. During the summer, we worked with the question “what are hills made of”, and eventually build the berm split into two, with the path between them aligning with the path of the wind and the row of poplars, extending that invitation I spoke of earlier.

Working with Doreen Massey’s theorization of place, a physical landscape feature attempts the manifestation of what Massey (2005/2015) calls one of most productive characteristics of material spatiality that enables “’something new’ to happen” – the “potential for the happenstance juxtaposition of previously unrelated trajectories” (p. 94).

In two sections of the playground, the paths are narrowed (from 1.5m to 0.9m) by two rows of evergreen hedges on either side. What we are trying to create here, is a call back to “throwtogetherness” of place (p. 140), the ongoing negotiation / conversation between humans and non-humans, revealed in the physical need to shift closer, to the side, to allow someone else to pass.

The tightness of the path, the brush of needles against the skin, the movement of bodies resonates with Massey’s writing about “that business of walking round a corner and bumping into alterity, of having (somehow, and well or badly) to get on with neighbours who have got ‘here’ … by different routes from you” (p. 94).