Guenter Beltzig (1941-2022) Play designer

“I live my life in ever-widening circles
that stretch themselves out over all the things.
I won’t, perhaps, complete the last one,
but I intend on trying.”

– Rilke, 1899

Author: Aline-Wendy Dunlop

Günter Beltzig started out as an industrial designer, he designed plastic furniture – now considered classics – and found in the New York Museum of Modern Art. He turned to designing playground equipment, playgrounds and outdoor areas for children. His designs demanded cooperation between individuals – if he designed a water system, or climbing opportunities or earth moving tools he always made sure at least two people needed to cooperate to make them work. He knew youths and older people would frequent children’s play spaces long after the daytime attendees had gone to bed – he designed these spaces to suit the twilight population too.

In 1992 not long after I first met them, Günter and Iri came to Scotland – Gunter spoke at the Play Scotland conference in Edinburgh.  Marguerite will remember that his enthusiasm rather than his English got him through! That same weekend we had a personal tour of the Mackintosh Building at GSA – something to cherish particularly now. We often spent Hogmanay with them at their home in Deimhausen, Bavaria: jumping from their verandah into the New Year before the pandemic interrupted so much. Günter and I collaborated on our Outdoor Spaces project at Strathclyde University – it was pioneering at the time (20 years ago) in Scotland – we worked with four primary schools, four early years settings and two baby rooms. Güntermet, chatted and spent time with children and adults in each setting. He drew up wonderful playground designs based on those conversations: they were thought through to be developed incrementally as resources became available. He had a real knack with risk-averse planners, it was amazing how they came up with solutions to the very problems they had posed. At one nursery he asked if anyone knew a bulldozer driver – he was delighted by a positive response from one of the staff and suggested her partner  came along to the next design get-together. A bare-footed Günter would hop off the bus with the students who were joining us on the project and would say ‘Welcome to the prison yard’ when faced with the high fences surrounding the new build school we were visiting. Metres of black asphalt shocked him – but new black asphalt shocked him even more. It was a privilege to learn at his side.

Günter Beltzig  was a warm, vital, super active person, who will be much missed by family, friends and colleagues.