Skip links

Rainbow Lake Playground March Update

The wet weather continues, but construction at Rainbow Lake Playground is still moving along nicely.  ViktorHall Construction crews are matching the pebble textures of the paths around the playground, finalizing the underground drainage system, and waiting on fencing to arrive.  They anticipate that their next big project will be building the wooden climbing structure.

Bernhard Meck
Bernhard Meck turns a tunnel into a tree.

Meanwhile, artist Bernhard Meck is a regular fixture on the construction site these days, putting together a log tunnel through The Big Green Mound.  He’s just about finished constructing the concrete tunnel, the middle portion of which will be buried and planted with grass.  The outer edges of the tunnel will be finished to look like a fallen tree.  Construction crews are also working on grading out the site to install other features such as a slide and sand pit.

Fundraising Update
We’re pleased to announce that we achieved our $10,000 goal and unlocked our matching gift!  We couldn’t have done it without you.  Thanks so much to everyone who has donated to the project so far!  We are still well short of our funding goal of $400,000 with only a few months before the playground opens.  If you haven’t had the chance to contribute to this project, there’s still time–make your donation today!

Grand Opening
We will officially celebrate the grand re-opening of Rainbow Lake Playground at our spring family festival, A Day of Merrymaking, on Saturday, June 8!  Make your plans now to come out and celebrate the park and this project with us.

Living on the Edge

This month we sat down with Bill Ferguson and Brian Martinelli of ANF Architects, the creative team behind the design of Rainbow Lake Playground.   They shared how the concept for the playground was created and some of the things they’re excited to see when the new space is unveiled.

Brian Martinelli and Bill Ferguson, ANF Architects
Brian Martinelli and Bill Ferguson look at the playground plans.

The playground began with some community input–specifically Bill’s then-two-year-old grandson Benji.  He loved My Big Backyard at Memphis Botanic Garden, so Bill and Brian spent a lot of time talking with the Garden’s staff to determine how they made their playground magical.  Armed with some ideas about the relationship between nature and play, as well as the balance between safety and adventure, they held meetings with a playground focus group made up of parents who regularly visited Overton Park.  That’s when the vision really started to take shape.

“The theme of the playground that emerged from those meetings is the idea of being on this edge space,” Bill says.  “The playground is right between the Old Forest and the Greensward, between woods and grassy, open space.  We wanted to reflect that theme in both the larger pieces and the smaller details of the playground design.”  Elements such as as The Big Green Mound bring together a fallen tree and a grassy area for kids to explore.

Tree stump sandbox
At the edge of the “fallen log” will be a sandbox fashioned in the shape of a tree stump.

The element of originality and creative play was crucial in planning for the playground.  “We didn’t want some cookie-cutter playground with everything bought from a catalog,” Brian says.  ANF decided to build in elements that would change during the life of the playground, such as a build-it-yourself area with stones, branches, and other materials that kids could piece together, take apart, and move around.  Older kids might interpret the equipment one way, while younger kids use it another, but all the features were meant to trigger the imaginations of kids regardless of age range.

They’re both excited to discover the imaginative ways kids use the playground.  “One of the great satisfactions of building something like this is watching the kids actually enjoying it,” Bill says.  “There are all kinds of ways they’ll use the playground that we’ve never considered.”  He has a hard time choosing a favorite element, but he’s especially excited about the National Ornamental Metal Museum’s pebble processor, which was Museum Project Coordinator Holly Fisher’s creative response to his idea that the playground needed a “noisemaker” element.  Brian is anxious to see The Spiderwebs, a cargo net climbing structure, realized.  With its swinging rope bridge, “it has the potential to be something really great.”

Next up for ANF?  Having already designed Overton Bark, Rainbow Lake Playground, and the Rainbow Lake restrooms, they’re now working on the Bike Gate project as well as restrooms near the East Parkway pavilion.  For Bill, having the chance to put his creativity to work at Overton Park is particularly special, since he’s been coming here since he was a small child.  He’s gone from walking through a wading pool with his siblings, to driving through the Old Forest with his roommates, to walking with his wife, Anne, and their four dogs along the trails, to designing for the park’s future.  We’re proud to work with Bill and Brian, and we can’t wait for you to see the finished product of their work!