The Mercedes-Benz V-Class provides enough space for the team from Danish playground designers MONSTRUM.

Getting creative with space: playground design from Denmark.

Visiting a site in Copenhagen in the Mercedes-Benz V-Class.

  • Getting creative with space: playground design from Denmark.

  • Playground design – Made in Denmark.

    A warm autumn light falls across the grey concrete floor. Open cans of paint lie here and there amongst the scattered tools and tiny mint-green miniature towers, creating a colourful scene. The rhythmic sound of sandpaper on wood is punctuated by the sizzle from welding equipment. Outside the huge studio door, two men are getting into a dark brown V-Class. The latest project from the Danish design studio MONSTRUM is about to be built near Copenhagen.

    In the MONSTRUM Design Studio workshop, everything is crafted by hand, from the initial sketches to the finished playground element.

    Since 2003, Ole Barslund Nielsen and Christian Jensen have been designing, planning and building giant wooden marine creatures, haunted castles and enchanting fantasy worlds which captivate and inspire play in both children and adults alike. Assisting them are 23 craftspeople, designers and architects. The creativeness and unique design of the brightly coloured children’s playgrounds have spread the MONSTRUM name far beyond Denmark’s borders.

    The Danish design duo Christian Jensen and Ole Barslund Nielsen outside their workshop in Copenhagen.

    While working as a freelance designer, Nielsen met set designer Christian Jensen. The two creative minds got together and founded the MONSTRUM design studio. Both Danes shared the same goal: to combine a child’s spirit of adventure with creative design and imaginative stories: “We wanted to use our background in art and design to create play elements which were much more than just swings or slides. We wanted to create spaces that would allow children to use their own imagination.”

    The big-hearted “monster” making little dreams come true.

    Ole Barslund Nielsen is a qualified photographer and architect. It was when his son began attending nursery school that Nielsen first started to look at what makes an ideal playground: “We needed a playground. But as I looked through the brochures, it occurred to me that we could design and build something ourselves for the same price, something that would be more artistic and imaginative than any standard equipment. That’s how I came to build the first playground for my son’s nursery school.”

    The big-hearted “monster” making little dreams come true.

    Ole Barslund Nielsen is a qualified photographer and architect. It was when his son began attending nursery school that Nielsen first started to look at what makes an ideal playground: “We needed a playground. But as I looked through the brochures, it occurred to me that we could design and build something ourselves for the same price, something that would be more artistic and imaginative than any standard equipment. That’s how I came to build the first playground for my son’s nursery school.”

    The Danish design duo Christian Jensen and Ole Barslund Nielsen outside their workshop in Copenhagen.

    While working as a freelance designer, Nielsen met set designer Christian Jensen. The two creative minds got together and founded the MONSTRUM design studio. Both Danes shared the same goal: to combine a child’s spirit of adventure with creative design and imaginative stories: “We wanted to use our background in art and design to create play elements which were much more than just swings or slides. We wanted to create spaces that would allow children to use their own imagination.”

    Days full of adventure.

    MONSTRUM helps children’s dreams to come true – since the design studio was founded, the company has built around 120 playgrounds, the majority in Denmark and Sweden. In the meantime, the evident attention to detail and the child-friendly, yet individual design have made Barslund and Jensen’s playground equipment known throughout the world, the brightly coloured wooden castles, landscapes and fantasy creatures now popping up as far afield as Bermuda, Hong Kong, Singapore, England, Spain, France and Russia.

    In the fantasy landscapes created by MONSTRUM, children are able to develop their own stories – and even play an active part in them.

    MONSTRUM’s philosophy is to tell children a story without using words. To create spaces where the children themselves become the central characters. “Each play area should tell a story from which new stories are allowed to evolve. We build spaces in which children can be anything they want – from astronaut to princess. If children have had a fantastic day at the playground, then we’ve achieved our goal.”

    A place for stories.

    MONSTRUM’s play areas not only help new stories to evolve but also have a special relationship with the area in which they are located. Landmark buildings, famous people and the geographical location all play a part in the design, which is why you may find children running around in the belly of a whale or doing gymnastics on castle towers, for example.

    The themes of MONSTRUM's play elements always relate to their location.

    The large, flat surfaces and soft materials provide plenty of space for little explorers to play out their dreams and ideas in safety. In 2012, Ole Barslund Nielsen and Christian Jensen won the Danish Design Award for their unique playground landscapes – something that the two men regard as a special honour.

    Ole Barslund Nielsen and Christian Jensen discuss the plans for their current playground project whilst en route in the Mercedes-Benz V-Class.

    En route to new spaces.

    Their work requires Ole Barslund Nielsen and Christian Jensen to be on the road a lot and meetings are often held whilst travelling to the various construction sites. “In our line of work, we need a lot of space – not just for new ideas but for our team and equipment too. In terms of design, the Mercedes-Benz V-Class is therefore very much like our playgrounds: both provide plentiful space and offer much more than you might suppose at first sight from the outside.”

    They are currently designing a playground in the Danish city of Aarhus. There, children will soon be able to enjoy jumping across ice floes, sliding through a giant tree trunk, swinging on the wings of an eagle and climbing through gigantic bears and Chinese dragons. As indeed will the adults.

    MONSTRUM - Spielplatzdesign aus Dänemark.

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