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Fun by Design

Bob the Fish - Westfield University Towne Centre

by Ali Bemanian, Pacific Play Systems

Pacific Play System's BTF (Bob the Fish) is located at Westfield UTC Mall in La Jolla, Calif. The play structure is 23' x 9' x 50' and was completed in May 2019.
The side view of Bob the Fish as seen from Macy's. A rubberized pathway leads into the multi-level structure. BTF was created to be a fully functional space with an oceanic theme.
An overhead view of Bob the Fish features various colors and patterns for PIP (poured in place) surfacing. Close to 20 different PIP colors were used on the project.
Kids play in the net climbing area, which forms the second floor of the structure, which also features balance logs and caves and dunes.
Composite wood details, digitally manufactured landforms, and surfboard designs were created by sculptor, Juan Rodriguez.

Tasty snacks and colorful shops aren't the only things for kids to look forward to during a shopping day at Westfield University Towne Centre (UTC), thanks to the new Westfield Play Space.

Pacific Play Systems, Inc. worked with Westfield for the creation of "Bob the Fish," a unique destination play space for the Kids' Play area, located at the mall in La Jolla, California.

In early 2017, the Westfield design team contacted Pacific Play Systems, a designer and installer of playground equipment, and asked for a conceptual design. La Jolla is a seaside community in San Diego, so Westfield requested a fish climbing structure that could be utilized as a destination play area at the mall and replace the existing play area.

An Oceanic Theme
The design process started with collaboration between Pacific Play's design team, headed by Ali Bemanian, who has a background in architecture with extensive experience in the design, manufacture and installation of commercial playground equipment, and managed all aspects of the project from start to finish. In designing the site, there were three design categories to consider. First, the design team at Dynamo Playgrounds took a lead role in the design and manufacture of the "Bob the Fish" structure. Next, the design team at ID Sculpture concentrated on creating various play opportunities using GFRC components. Finally, Spectraturf was tasked with turning the complex surfacing design, created by the design team, into a reality. The goal of the poured-in-place surfacing design was to create the appearance of "Bob the Fish" swimming in the ocean. Additionally, various patterns and colors were used to create ocean waves, sand dunes and sidewalks leading to various functions within the site.

Composite wood details, digitally manufactured landforms and custom shaped surfboards create the environment for an iconic steel and rope fish sculpture.

Design Components
Bemanian says the attraction has turned out to be a unique and exciting play environment for children of all ages. The final design includes a multi-level, fully functional composite play structure consisting of various play elements such as climbing nets, climbing features, cargo nets, musical instruments, a variety of free-standing play components, balancing elements, boulders, caves, mounds, sea creatures, sculptures, seating areas and more, with PIP surfacing in various colors and patterns throughout the site. This 'playable art' is carefully designed to give adults and children alike an opportunity to let their imaginations wander by setting foot in a new landscape while presenting different levels of challenge for children of ages 5-12.

Pacific Play Systems' scope of work for this project started with putting together a design team to make the vision desired by Westfield a reality. Next, Pacific Play's project management team worked with a local structural engineering consultant to come up with complex load diagrams to analyze the structure based on local codes, and to come up with a structural design, which included a foundation system as well as various free-standing items.

Working with vendors and consultants, Pacific Play produced a complete set of construction documents for the project, which included engineering drawings and calculations as well as the foundation design and plans. The permit processing through San Diego took approximately three months to complete and included comprehensive design, planning, structural and fire safety reviews.

A Wave of Challenges
Once a permit was obtained for the project, Pacific Play Systems worked with American Park Specialties, a north San Diego County installer of commercial playground equipment to start construction of the project by the demolition, hauling and disposal of the existing playground equipment. Next was the installation of the foundation system, followed by the assembly of the play structure and the installation of various site amenities. Despite the many installation challenges to overcome, including working in poor weather conditions, narrow and limited site access and limited work hours, the APS team successfully installed the playground in two months. Finally, the surfacing was furnished and installed within one week.

"After months of planning and preparation, Pacific Play Systems is proud of being a part of the team that created this innovative play environment, which brings smiles to the young faces visiting UTC's Kids' Play Area, day after day!" exclaimed Bemanian. "We would like to thank the entire Westfield team as well as our partners at American Park Specialties and Private Eye Engineering for their contributions to this project."

As seen in LASN magazine, September 2019.

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November 16, 2019, 2:39 pm PDT

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