making the world a more beautiful place

Plastic Tree Park

Posted By on 9 April 2013 in conceptual design, design process, models, site planning + planting design |

Plastic Tree Park

An important part of the healing process is having access to and views of outdoor green spaces. The developers and staff of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan understood this need, and therefore proposed the creation of a Children’s Park on a vacant 2 acre site next to the hospital grounds.

Numerous design charrettes were held with local elementary school student to ensure that proposed park designs were appealing to children, and appropriate to healing, as well as healthy visitors. Children chose their favorite “park playing cards” from printed precedent photographs and explained why they like them the most…drew their vision for what the park could look like…constructed miniature models of park features out of paper and glue…and provided feedback on sketches and models that were based off of their previous feedback and proposed to them.

Check out the design for the “Plastic Tree Park” below, inspired by the endless imagination’s of children…  


Plastic Tree Park Plan




Snapshots of the Site

A detailed to-scale model of the site was created from clay and various materials (shown above), and then photographed to illustrate to the clients the many unique experiences the Plastic Tree Park provided. This design for the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital park was extremely well-received, as the clients saw it as a fun and functional space for kids and families of all kinds.

1. Southwest Entrance

1_SWEntranceOn-street metered parking, accessible pathways, plenty of bicycle racks, a rocky ridge stabilizing the rolling topography, and large canopy trees that welcome visitors as they enter Plastic Tree Park.


 2. Castle Climbing Towers


Tall, narrow climbing castles are nestled in the site’s “crevasse” (located to the south of the existing building) and allow visitors to climb up and down in these towers, and take in the sights of the surrounding park and urban skyline in the distance.













 3. Plastic Tree Playscape


Life-size plastic playscape trees are “planted” along the park’s southern border, amongst the other wooded vegetation.

The Plastic Trees are hollow and contain climbing ladders inside, allowing children (and even ambitious adults) the opportunity to traverse up and down among the different levels of the trees.

Wooden drawbridges extend between the Plastic Trees, and an accessible ramp leads up to the largest tree, allowing this area to be experienced be everyone.





4. Southeast Wooded Way Entrance



5. Northwest Entrance: Sculpture Park + Urban Ruins and Runs

5_SculptureParkThe site’s northwest entrance welcomes visitors with a larger-than-life sculpture park, that extends along the western border of the park (a popular “cut through” path by University students and hospital staff). This entrance provides plenty of bicycle racks, as well as accessible pathways that guide visitors to the Urban Ruins + Runs playground and the Rocky Reach (shown below).


6.  Rocky Reach

6_RockyReachThe Rocky Reach is designed as a more quiet, contemplative zone within the park. A water feature, designed to look like a cracked pipe coming out of the existing building’s exterior wall, trickles water through this area of the site, providing a soothing experience that will relax the nerves of healing children and their families. Wooden benches, and “crumbling concrete” seatwalls are located throughout this portion of the site, inviting folks to take a seat and stay a while.


7. Free Range Play Zone

7_FreeRangePlayAt the core of the site lies a large, open expanse of land. In the summer seasons, the rolling grass hills offer perfect opportunities to sit and listen to concerts performed from the wooden wetland patios. In the winter months, the topographically low areas can be flooded and frozen into ice skating rinks for children and adults to enjoy!


8. Wetland Viewing Platforms


Water from the Rocky Reach trickles down through the site and collects in this wetland complex. Elevated wooden patios and seatwalls surround a clear “wetland viewing” platform, which allows visitors to admire the unique ecosystem that lies below.

These platforms also provide space for group gathering, events, and concert performances.

When water reaches high levels due to rain storms and snow melts, the excess water flows over the backside of the wetland complex catchment area and into a reserve catchment area. This peaceful waterfall and secondary pooling area is perfectly nestled amidst the Nature Noises area of the site–another quite, contemplative zone with a stone pave patio, stone seatwalls, and wind chimes hanging in the surrounding tree branches.