It is getting close to the anniversary of our 2014/2015 project in Azerbaijan and we would like to reflect on our time there.
• Jacek Maklakiewicz – DNA Play (Poland)
• Ben Rimmer – DNA Play (South Africa)
• Heinz Kronefeld – IDM Civil Engineer (Germany)
• Graeme Pollock – Director of European Azerbaijan School (New Zealand)
• Shirin Jamalli – Shans Construction (Azerbaijan)
• Prue Walsh – Play Design Consulting (Australia)
On October 2013, we were approached by a landscape designer named Prue Walsh from Play Environment Consulting. Prue informed us that she was interested in using our company to implement the playground design she had been working on for The European Azerbaijan School in Baku, Azerbaijan. We were very excited at this proposal as we are always open to a new learning experience and we knew carrying out our work in Azerbaijan certainly would be. We are proud of our work across England and Wales but to be given the opportunity to work on an international playground was definitely a first for us. Not only was it a first for us but a school playground of this sort with natural elements of play was a first for Azerbaijan.
To achieve the desired final product at Baku was a great international effort which focused us all to achieve the best possible result. Even though we speak different languages, we found the language of play to be universal and we worked in harmony to forge lifelong friendships. With the Baku project there were many different people and organisations involved such as TEAS (The European Azerbaijan Society), EAS (European Azerbaijan School), IDM (Inspection Development Monitoring) and many more people that helped to provide such great hospitality and take the time to make sure we really enjoyed our time and work in their country.
We worked alongside the IDM to maintain European construction standards throughout the building phase on this project. This included carefully chosen building materials and equipment, including bespoke net bridges and ropes made by South West Play from Cornwall. We are hoping this playground brings as much joy to the kids as it did to us building it. DNA Play is looking forward to its future projects in Azerbaijan.
From the moment you enter the terminal building at Heydar Alliyev airport in Baku Azerbaijan, you realise this is a country that is investing heavily in its future. The drive from the airport through Baku city further endorses this. Modern sleek buildings appear to have popped up overnight like magical beanstalks. The skyline is littered with the silhouettes of industrious cranes. The high standard of architecture, from the beautiful curves of the cultural centre to the impressive scale of the flame tower, boasts Baku’s intention of standing shoulder to shoulder with other international cities. With all this progress Baku has still managed to remember the importance of retaining its history and culture and the beautifully preserved 11 century Maiden Tower in the old city is testament to that.
As first impressions go you can’t get much better than this and it was with great anticipation that we embarked on a journey that would leave us with memories to cherish forever.
On a return trip to Baku we were introduced to the director of The European Azerbaijan School, Graeme Pollock, as well as Shirin Jamali and Mr Alekper from Shan’s construction, and Heinz Kronefeld and Kanan Mehdizade from IDM. The construction schedule was confirmed and after adapting the playground design to fit the space and requirements of the School, construction was underway.
A week later we were back on site in Baku and the serious business of building a playground was well underway. Shan’s construction were completely professional in their approach to the task and provided us with all the tools, materials and labour we required to construct the bespoke timber elements. All of the construction team and management on site were respectful and friendly, and generally positive about what we were trying to accomplish. Despite there sometimes being a language barrier, there was never a problem with communication on site and everyone who worked on the project was enthusiastic and worked together in harmony. Overall the project was a great success and everyone involved can be proud of what was achieved.
A special mention has to be made about the hospitality we were shown by all the people we encountered in Baku. Taleh Bagiyev, Ragsana Mammadova, Konul Safarova from TEAS along with Gilan Tourism were invaluable in providing all the necessary travel arrangements and support we needed and ensuring we had a comfortable stay in Baku. Heinz Kronefeld, Kanan Mehdizade, Nijat Rasulov from IDM always showed a great interest in the project and were always on hand to ensure that high standards of construction were achieved. Graeme Pollock and staff from EAS were always positive and supportive of the project. Kenul Huseynova, Kazim Mustafazade, Tural Wemkirskiy and all of the team from Shans Construction were hard working and dedicated to completing the project. Shirin Jamali and Mr Alekper and all their friends and family we were introduced to were always very accommodating and sincere in their desire to make our time in Baku as enjoyable as possible. When time permitted away from work, we were shown all the sights that Baku has to offer and given a cultural and culinary education of Azerbaijan that has left a positive and lasting impression on us.