WPL proudly submitted the Pembroke Elementary School Courtyard Playground designed for the school’s special needs population for the 2013 Virginia Beach Planning Commission Awards and won an Award of Merit for Public Spaces. Originally, Pembroke Elementary School’s 14,000 s.f. interior courtyard was less than optimal for use as a playground. Children with limited mobility were missing out on what could be a wonderful play and learning venue in an outdoor, protected courtyard.
In 2010, Kary Ann Nixon, a special education teacher at Pembroke Elementary, started a fund raising campaign for new play equipment in the courtyard. Linda Hayes, the school’s Principal, fully supported the efforts. After a number of meetings and design charrettes with school faculty and staff, landscape architects at Painted Fern conceptualized a plan that consisted of inspired play features, gardening areas, a water fountain, and space for creating art outdoors. All of the equipment was researched and selected based on handicap accessibility for the diverse population of special needs students at Pembroke.
Once the conceptual plan was finished and approved by the principal and staff at Pembroke, site design firm, WPL, was responsible for turning an idea into a reality by creating design documents from design development through to construction. The finished product inside Pembroke Elementary School’s interior courtyard takes accessible play to an entirely new level. Not just for play, the space is now a setting where children are encouraged to create, explore, and grow. The courtyard playground has been named “Bodies In Motion Learning Park”.
The renovated courtyard is essentially rectangular with three of the corners containing rooms for gardening, art, and basketball. At the heart of the space are a collection of fixed play structures, all uniquely designed to be accessible, with cushioned play surfacing below. A meandering concrete sidewalk encircles the space where children enjoy moving with their walkers, wheelchairs, bikes and bigwheels. Benches line the sidewalk, creating an inviting place to relax or supervise the play activity. The space is lushly planted with shrubs to soften the walls and trees to provide shade in the summer. Two large tensile shade systems afford ample shade over the fixed play equipment, and smaller tensile shades are located over the basketball and art spaces.
Come dedication day for the courtyard playground, there was nothing short of big smiles on everyone’s face for the beautiful accomplishment and reward of so much hard work that went on for the very well deserving children!
WPL also received received an Award of Merit in the Public Facilitates category for Chesapeake Beach Fire Station and an Honor Award in the same category for Williams Farms Community Recreation Center. WPL’s project 31 Ocean also received an Award of Merit in the Best Master Planned category.