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Play landscape in Ulan-Ude, Russia

featured in sb magazine 4 2021
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Exploring Siberian landscapes

featured in sb magazine 4/2021

The play landscape looks simple and natural, yet its organisation and simplicity provide the maximum opportunity for the development of children’s imagination. AFA Group believe that simple play with materials taken from the natural environment is important and in demand for child development, stress relief, study and learning, these are sometimes more effective than expensive equipment. Reflecting the typical landscapes of the region, such as mountains, lakes, steppes and boreal forests, the play landscape can be used all year round, adapting to the extreme weather conditions.

The name “Igral-Baikal“ is derived from a play on words. The first word means “play“ in Russian, making a playful rhyme with “Baikal”, a lake located at 150 km north of the city of Ulan-Ude in southeast Siberia.

Ulan-Ude has been lacking quality spaces for families where they can spend time outdoors and wanted to create a new point of attraction. The new playground became the starting point for the transformation of the park into a safer and friendlier environment. Often a playground has been perceived as a rubber field with just a couple of play items, while the new project introduced a different approach.

Play landscape Ulan Ude_sb 4 2021_Square ©AFA.jpg

photo: AFA Roman Kolechenkov

Adapting to severe climate conditions

Play landscape Ulan Ude_sb 4 2021_4.3 ©AFA.jpg

photo: AFA Roman Kolechenkov

One of the challenges was to preserve the existing vegetation, so the design established the shapes of the main zones and the connecting paths. The place needed to adapt to severe climate conditions (extreme temperatures in both the summer and winter seasons, and strong winds). The materials were carefully ­selected and the natural vegetation was made use of. The elements of the playground are smartly arranged, featuring multiple barriers and shelters for hiding in. The programming applies to all-season scenarios, so that the same facilities can be used all year round, adapting to the weather conditions.

Good to know

Play landscape Ulan Ude_sb 4 2021_5.2©AFA.jpg

photo: AFA Roman Kolechenkov

Ulan-Ude, Buryatia, Russia


Landscape Architect
AFA Group
RU –107140 Moscow

AFA Group

AFA Group Roman Kolechenkov

Official opening

Construction costs
EUR 1.1 million

Play landscape Ulan Ude_sb 4 2021_5.3©AFA.jpg

photo: AFA Roman Kolechenkov

Design follows landscape

The concept is based on the landscape characteristics of the Buryatia region – huge steppes with tumbleweeds and herds of horses, shady forests, multi-level mountain ranges and the great lake. Each landscape prompts an image and creates the atmosphere for one of the four play zones. It provides contact with nature and the development of sensory abilities, which children in an urban environment lack.


The atmosphere of the tree-less grassland plains is created by a variety of landscape techniques: a large open space sandbox, low elements and nests in the form of tumbleweed balls. In these nests one can hide and play or observe the world through the small slits between the rods. A couple of play elements introduce the children to the operation of a mechanism, such as the transportation system, allowing them to establish contacts and develop the ability to work in a team.

Play landscape Ulan Ude_sb 4 2021_3.5©AFA.jpg

photo: AFA Roman Kolechenkov

Boreal Forest

This zone is created by the predominance of vertical elements: equipment racks, various types of trees, together making up the flora of the boreal forests. The wood-chip covering complements the image of the boreal forest play zone. For active exercise and recreation in the centre of the site there are different types of swings, interesting for and in demand from children from toddlers to teenagers, and also suitable for adults. This is one of the most popular play areas on the site.


Multi-level terraces of boulders filled with small pebbles and bushes resemble rocky slopes. The pyramids with sharp peaks symbolise the peaks of mountain ranges. Two large pyramids are meant for older children. Protected from all sides by ridges, one can climb on the pyramids or imagine fortress walls when playing with friends.

Play landscape Ulan Ude_sb 4 2021_5.4©AFA.jpg

photo: AFA Roman Kolechenkov


Baikal is symbolised by a spirally flowing stream, which flows from both sides into a large bowl, the bottom of which is lined with patterns of large pebbles. Various devices in the water area are dedicated to both individual study and research, and to teamwork. Children learn how to control water flows, make dams and lift liquids using mechanical work. The water in the canals at different times of the year, as well as the steam nozzles, reveal all the conditions of the water in nature. This play area can be considered a mini-laboratory for science lessons open for public access.

All the play areas are interconnected by a play route – an imaginary railway between age zones symbolising the Trans-Siberian railway track.

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