Huizen Borough


Family community on the Goimeer puts children’s interests first

Until the start of the 1970's, Huizen was a separate village community sheltered between forest, heath and water in the heart of nature in the Gooi region, and the luxuriant greenery and cooling effect of the Gooimeer on a sunny day is still enjoyed in full by many. But the municipality is no longer small. The former fishing village now has around 40,000 inhabitants and the municipality has grown to become one of the largest water sport centres in Central Netherlands.

Huizen is what you would call a true family community in which regional green areas and play areas for children have acquired a special place in the many residential neighbourhoods that have sprung up around the old village centre during the last 30 years.

As superintendent of the District Management and Service section, Frans Elbers is responsible for the layout of play areas in Huizen, and in that capacity he was involved in the birth of an exciting vision for play areas. "In Huizen we utilise the so-called circle approach for the layout of public space. This is defined as: within a radius of 200 metres of every house there is a play area for children up to 7 years of age or so, within sight of their parents. In these areas there are small items of play equipment, for example from KOMPAN's Moments range. A second imaginary circle is drawn at 500 metres and within this radius you can always find a play area with play equipment for slightly older children of up to 12 years of age, including that from the Nature series. Finally, there is a further circle of 1 kilometre's distance and we plan another facility within that, for example a playground, basketball or volleyball field."

This classification is made by the municipality of Huizen on the basis of extensive demographic research conducted in 2001 in which the type of play areas required within the borough was carefully mapped out.

Residents choose the design
For the design of the play areas, Mr Elbers consults the expertise and creativity of specialists such as KOMPAN. But he prefers to keep the conditions somewhat closer to hand. "For each assignment we state who the play area is intended for, what play functions we want to have, the ground base and the budget. But within those boundaries the designers are free to create something really good." If the design fulfils all of the requirements imposed by the municipality then in principle it is up to the residents themselves to make the final choice from a maximum of three different designs. Play equipment made of FSC certified wood is increasingly being chosen: Elbers has calculated that no less than 40% of all new play equipment in his municipality has come from the incredibly popular KOMPAN Nature range, mainly due to the quality and appearance of that equipment.

Automated system
Huizen has worked according to the circle approach described by Elbers for decades now, but according to him it has nevertheless changed somewhat over the years. "It all began in order to guarantee children of all ages sufficient room to play. In the beginning my predecessors did that mainly based on their feeling, but we now have a fully automated system of "play management". It contains all of the nearly 100 play areas in the municipality, with all of the details of the 430 or so items of equipment we have: type, supplier, purchase price, installation date, maintenance and so on. So we have a precise idea of when equipment needs to be replaced and that helps us tremendously with annual budgets."

The system has another practical side effect as, based on its data, Elbers can easily prevent too may of the same pieces of equipment from being installed in a particular district. If there is a risk of that occurring, suppliers are instructed whether or not to utilise specific pieces of equipment in their designs. "It is actually very simple: when children go to play with their friends, there has to be equipment that is different from what they have at home. Variety is the key word, because that way playtime never becomes boring - and that is precisely what we want to achieve."


Fast facts
Location: Huizen, Netherlands