– Founder of Belgrade Design Week, Jovan Jelovac.

The first creative children’s playground built according to EU standards was officially opened on September 13th 2013. in the Kalemegdan Park in the presence of representatives of the City of Belgrade, the Belgrade Greenery, Lamda Development, Finish company Lappset, the Embassy of Finland in Serbia, the architectural studio MADA and Belgrade Design Week. The new creative playground replaced the old, closed by the Municipal inspection in May, because it was no longer meeting modern safety standards. Located near the “Luna Park” and the entrance to Belgrade’s Zoo, it is the first of the planned “100 Belgrade Design Week creative playgrounds for Serbia”, a project that has already inspired great interest among leading companies and local governments nationwide. The opening was immediately and overwhelmingly attended by the end-users – children – who were delighted after weeks of announcements, because they finally got a brand new, inspiring and safe place to play in the Serbian capital, in the most central park location of the Old City.

Belgrade Design Week (BDW) has initiated and managed the entire process to create this creative playground, in cooperation with the City of Belgrade and the Greek company Lamda Development as main patrons, the Embassy of Finland in Serbia and Finland’s Lappset as partners, designed by Belgrade’s young, up and coming studio MADA Architects, built by the experts of Belgrade’s Municipal Greenery.

We hope that this example of a first public-private partnership in Serbia would inspire more companies and Institutions across the country and the region to take part in our action, to offer own proposals of locations, sponsorships and initiatives, so that 100 CREATIVE PLAYGROUNDS FOR CHILDREN will soon be built in many places across Serbia. At this playground, we are being educated, and inviting all the parents to discover again how to play with their kids, said the Founder of Belgrade Design Week, Jovan Jelovac.

The Kalemegdan playground is the first example of a project representing the process of “Design Thinking”, introduced by BDW in Serbia, characterized by five simple points:

  1. Kids shall fall on their heads without fear – provide them with an overall safe base for such a bold statement – but also inspire and educate them with highest design standards
  2. Look at the Genius Loci for inspiration – the hills and gulches of Kalemegdan are a clear inspiration for the landscape design of the playground itself – and make the playground topography an exercise toy in itself (btw. what is the reason that all playgrounds in Serbia are flat?)
  3. Work only with the best equipment suppliers who are legendary names in the world of design – proven by innovation, sustainability, durability and excellence in execution – such as the Finnish LAPPSET
  4. Collaborate with the most professional municipal institutions, responsible for introducing the strictest EU standards of safety and sustainability in the development of children playgrounds – such as Belgrade’s Office for Communal and Housing Affairs and the City Greenery
  5. And last but not least, moderate the strictly non-profit donation and production dialogue between key patrons, in this case the City of Belgrade itself, and the Greek company LAMDA DEVELOPMENT, responsible for the modern development of the nearby BEKO factory, assisted with a lot of goodwill by the Finnish Embassy and LAPPSET.

– We are very happy that we helped to make this playground look so great. It’s too bad that the Finnish Ambassador, H.E. Pekka Orpana couldn’t be here today because he is out of the country, but let me assure you that it was a personally very important project for him. He was engaged a lot, and was here last week to oversee the works so he has followed the result almost to the end, and was very happy. We are very happy that the equipment of the Finnish company Lappset is now finally in Serbia, as they have been guiding Finnish children through playgrounds for decades already. And now it’s fantastic that children in Belgrade and, hopefully, the rest of Serbia, will have a chance as well to educate themselves while playing, said Outi Isotalo, Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Finland in Belgrade.

– When we heard about Belgrade Design Week initiative, we were thrilled because this is exactly what we want to donate to Belgrade, innovative and high quality design, pragmatically applied to bring ultimate enjoyment, in this case to our beloved children, that are most important to all of us. I am glad that we have contributed to the realization of the first of future 100 creative playgrounds, and that our partners, such as The City of Belgrade and The City Greenery, recognized the importance of this project and helped us to bring it through. We hope that our youngest neighbors will be happy, and that the construction of playgrounds will be will continued successfully, said Boris Tancabelić, director of Lamda Development’s Belgrade office.

The City Architect Dejan Vasović highlighted this playground’s unique features such as its special equipment in the first place, made by a most famous global manufacturer such as Lappset from Finland, and that the Finnish Embassy in Serbia is responsible for dispatching the equipment as early as possible at the most favorable conditions to Serbia.

– A special distinction goes to our young architects, who designed last year’s Serbian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. They used a very creative approach to landscape the playground and render it unique. In fact, this is the first purposely-designed children’s playground in Belgrade, managed by Belgrade Design Week. Our intention is to produce more of them in the Belgrade, said Vasović.

– The production technology required from us was most advanced, as stipulated by the project – the custom made rubber surface for the first time not flat – but in an attractive landscape design, due to BDW’s vision. The work was done in about twenty days. The plan is to repeat the same system and a similar playground two hundred meters away from this one, at the top of the Kalemegdan Fortress, above the Pavilion of Cvijeta Zuzoric. Following this first one, in the future, all playgrounds in Belgrade will be done according to strict EU safety standards, said Vladimir Bogićević, Acting Director of Belgrade’s Greenery.

The design of the first playground was entrusted to Belgrade’s young architectural studio MADA, who attracted public attention by representing Serbia at the Venice Biennale in 2012.

– Following BDW’s concept, our intention was to turn the landscape per se into a playground court. By interviewing children and parents, we came up with the idea, and now the results, within the standards set by the European Union, to design these hills and gulches, which, as we have seen today and in the past few days, were enthusiastically received by the kids, who immediately recognized our intention to provide them with safe running, climbing and experiments. Compared to the previous playground that was very specific, we wanted to make something that would be equally authentic, yet new. In cooperation with Lappset we designed a playground tailor-made for Kalemegdan and its topography, so that the playground’s landscape is actually dictated by the topography of the field, in particular the “hills” defined by the security zones of the devices. What ‘s great and what really surprised us, was that the “hills” have become a main toy in itself for children, experienced almost in competition to the prized LAPPSET equipment. As young architects, we received a lot of confidence and trust from BDW regarding the joint concept, so that we could concentrate on organizing the devices adapted to usage for all ages, and setting them in a manner to stimulate children’s specific motoric functions, said Nikola Andonov and Olga Lazarević in front of the architectural studio MADA.

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June 2nd 1010, I approach Belgrade from the sky, over green fields, rain-clouds, grey cityscape and cold air. My first impression is - ugh! I am greeted by my hostesses and the rest of the crew and immediately flowers start blooming in my mind. Life is everywhere, and after a few days I leave with an energy boost and a great lift in spirits. I am sad to go but I am sure to return. Belgrade is alive!"