Günter Beltzig has spent over 40 years designing children’s playgrounds
As a playground designer, Günter Beltzig understands the value of play. He has been designing playgrounds now for over 40 years which has given a unique perspective on why play is important.
“When you are playing, you aren’t consciously deciding what you are interested in but instead acting upon your innate desires and preferences.”
When you do this, he explains “you are occupying yourself, making mistakes, and effectively learning from them.”
He points to his own childhood as an example of play having an important role. Günter was kicked out of school, yet despite this, his love of play and curious personality resulted in his success.
“I was a bad student. I used to play and draw a lot and constantly invented things. However, this benefited me in the long run”
After spending some time as an industrial designer, his life took a sharp turn after having his first child.
“My wife and I always wanted to make the world a better place and decided that we should focus on improving the children’s world instead of the adult world. We, therefore, decided to build playgrounds for the children.”
He points to the importance of playgrounds in modern society, a society that he says has more only children, more aggression, and less social interaction due to the way technology has entered the lives of children.
Because of this, he has started to “focus on developing playgrounds that bring children together and facilitate social interaction.”
He points out that while the equipment used may be similar, the “playgrounds now facilitate a different social interaction.”
Of course, as well as these ideological factors, there are many other factors that need to be taken into consideration when building a playground.
He explains that he needs to know, “who the future users will be, how old they will be and what social class they come from. It is also very important to know where the playground will be built.”
Most importantly, though, he says that playgrounds need to offer a space for children to have what he calls a proper childhood. He wants adults and governments to ”acknowledge that childhood is important and provide children the space and the opportunities needed to be a child.”
One interesting point was where Günter spoke about the behavioral differences in children in different countries.
For example, “In England, children play in a very disciplined manner. They go to the playground, play for an hour, get picked up and go home without complaining. In Italy, you have playgrounds that are incredibly dangerous and just awful. I was actually quite scared when I saw them.”
However, what is interesting is that children in Italy aren’t restricted to playing in certain areas like playgrounds, “adults accept that children are part of society and allow them to play anywhere.”
Despite these differences in the way children play, Gunther says that most playgrounds across the world are pretty similar and “unoriginal imitations.”
This leads to places like Italy, where children generally play anywhere they feel like, building playgrounds that they don’t really need.
Throughout his life, Günter has made a lot of playgrounds. However, much like a lot of us, he had a different dream when he was a child.
“Diesel invented the diesel motor, Zeppelin invented the Zeppelin and I wanted to invent the Günter. It was like a spaceship that I could use to fly into another world.”
Of course, while he perhaps hasn’t invented a spaceship, there is little doubt that his playgrounds have helped many children transport themselves into another world of fun.