Of the 85 proposals submitted to a playground design competition hosted by Go Play!, few were as innovative as AnneMarie van Splunter’s RubberTree, which landed an honorable mention. The Dutch designer’s imaginative reuse of old car and motorcycle tires recalls the simplicity of children playing around a tree, inspired, in fact, by the rubber tree and its heavily exposed root system. Van Splunter sought to create a place where refugee children on the border of Burma and Thailand can be “rooted in solid ground.”
Proposals were asked to focus on elements including buildability, innovation, and overall design. RubberTree‘s proposed locally-sourced structural-bamboo armature was hoped to increase affordability and provide for local construction. An unnamed engineer purports that the entire structure could be built without the use of metal, allowing the tree to be built with local labor. However, the material life-spans of bamboo, rope, and tires in a tropical climate could lead to breakdown and potential safety hazards over time. While more expensive, steel would be a more ideal material in terms of safety.
Safety issues aside, the innovative design demonstrates a novel method of reusing old tires and an inspiring reclamation of material. While the project won’t be built as part of the competition, Van Splunter has reportedly received interest from her native Netherlands to build RubberTree, where a cooler climate and a steel structure could make the playground a reality.