A repurposed ambulance is the main attraction at Beit CURE International Hospital’s playground in Blantyre, Malawi. Rescued from a scrap yard by designers Luc van Hoeckel and Pim van Baarsen, the old Toyota Land Cruiser was gutted, repainted in crisp white and firmly planted into the ground. Inside, the designers replaced the front seats and installed benches made of wood and metal, and its external attachments – a slide, fireman poleslide, climbing rack and swing – complete the clubhouse vibe. Plus, the vehicle is fitted with two Dr. Seuss-esque horns.
Together with Sakaramenta, a socially minded design-manufacturing business in Malawi founded by fellow Dutchman Peter Meijer, the designers re-imagined and built the playground for the orthopaedic hospital and community. They scoured the city’s dumps to retrieve old tires, springs and axles to create additional climbing, swinging and rocking equipment. “Our focus was: simple, strong and sustainable,” says van Hoeckel. “All the parts can be maintained locally!”
What’s more, van Hoeckel and van Baarsen taught Sakaramenta’s employees how to work with technical drawings and how to translate the local design team’s ideas into 3-D computer drawings. “By working with technical drawings, they make less mistakes, and that economizes the use of material and time,” says van Hoeckel. Sakaramenta also manufactures retail and sanitation carts, first responder bikes and educational furnishings.