The Hardscaper Blog:

How To Create Iconic Playgrounds with Concrete – Part 1: Artisan Rocks

Using artisan rocks on the playground at Mehaffey Park Playground
By installing decorative concrete, more specifically, artisan rocks, to parks and playgrounds, Colorado Hardscapes supports the mission to create better futures for Colorado communities.

Play structures can make or break the popularity of a community park/playground. Not only should these play structures be fun, but they should also help build social skills, fine and gross motor skills, and push the limits of children’s imaginations. Cultivation of these skills has been proven to have positive lasting effects in communities for generations to come. 

Why Artisan Rocks?

One of the leading reasons why clients request artisan rocks to be installed on their playground is for the aesthetic appeal. Natural boulders in conjunction with softscape create an unmatched ambiance. 

Whether using GFRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete) or shotcrete, our in-house artists carefully form and paint every square inch in order to achieve the look of native rock.

But beyond their decorative nature, concrete rock walls, platforms, and tunnels exist as great tools for encouraging imaginative play and physical activity. 

For example, children of all ages climb, grip, touch, and maneuver through these features requiring the use of gross and fine motor skills. They promote skills such as balance, hand-eye coordination, and planning-executing.

Our Experience

At Colorado Hardscapes, we value contributing to that developmental process. We’ve been a part of over a dozen playground projects incorporating artisan rocks and have worked with a variety of Landscape Architects along the way. 

We believe each of them has greatly enhanced the space it lives in and will continue to make lasting impacts in the years ahead. Continue reading for some of our most notable playground projects incorporating artisan rocks. 

Denver Premium Outlets in Thorton – 2018

Within this outlet mall, we added a total of four shotcrete boulders; three of which we placed around the playground and one in the shopping center. Due to their versatility, the architect designed these boulders to be in both areas. Continuing, their flat shape works perfectly as seating for parents or tired shoppers.

Johnson Habitat Park in Denver – 2015

Originally constructed to resemble a camping space, the natural-looking boulders help dilute the urban background. In addition to the boulders, we placed a fox hollow, and a few faux stumps; can you tell which stumps are real and which are fake? All constructed using shotcrete, the shape and texture of these features were artistically crafted on-site.

Mehaffey Park in Loveland – 2014

Mehaffey Park utilizes over 2,000 SF of GFRC rockwork. We placed the back rock wall, landing pad from the bridge, small rocks on the turf, and fallen logs. Hundreds of hours went into pre-fabricating their shape at our warehouse and then hand-painting them on-site. Through detail-oriented and intensive labor, the artisan rocks on this park achieve the look of natural sedimentary rock.

Northern Shores at Denver Zoo – 2011

Also featured in our blog, “7 Concrete Features That Took These Zoos to the Next Level“, Nothern Shores incorporates several large shotcrete boulders in addition to some smaller rockwork used to separate the sand and woodchips. Easy to climb onto, this play space is great for children of all ages.

Center Park in Westminster -2009

As one of our first playground projects incorporating artisan rockwork, Center Park goes above and beyond the norm. Here, we added an artisan rock climbing structure/slide, concrete fox hollow, and fallen logs. These features combined with the pirate-themed park make this pocket of Westminster feel a little more like Neverland.

Interested in Artisan Rockwork?

At Colorado Hardscapes, our goal is to take your vision and turn it into reality. From interior floors to artisan rocks, we’ll use our expertise to push the boundaries of what you thought was possible. If you want to know more about adding artisan rocks on playgrounds, call us at 303•750•8200 or email us at [email protected].