Category Archives: Urbanism

Urban design, architecture, planning

Could this be the most play-literate PR video ever?

A couple of weeks ago the UK laundry brand Persil (known in many parts of the world as Omo) released a set of short videos called ‘Kids Today’. The aim is to give parents insights into the intrinsic value of play, using ‘point of view’ cameras to bring the viewer closer to the world as seen through children’s eyes. Here is the first, entitled ‘Play Face’.

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When street play went primetime

Here is the item on street play that was broadcast on The One Show last Monday (24 June 2013). It focuses on the road closure session in Worthing that I described in my post from a couple of weeks ago (and yes, I do pop up a couple of times, flying the flag for outdoor play).

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Street play: can you have too much of it?

Road closed signI have written before about street play, and plugged the Playing Out project, whose community-based approach to opening up streets for play is spreading fast. A couple of weekends ago I witnessed a whole Playing Out session from beginning to end (and you will have the chance to see the edited highlights on primetime TV [Update Weds 3 July 2013: watch a clip from this blog post of mine]). It was a thrilling event, welcomed and enjoyed by people of all ages. But while I shared their enthusiasm, I was left wondering if the sheer energy of the occasion could paradoxically weaken the initiative’s prospects. I’ll come back to that thought later – but first, let’s set the scene.

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Can ordinary people turn a car park into an urban park?

Image of a development site

Image from parkstarter.com

Have you ever looked at a piece of derelict land in your area and thought “that could make a nice spot for a park” – and then felt your spirit fall as it sits boarded up for years, or worse still, gets turned into a temporary car park? Manchester resident Sam Easterby-Smith has, and has decided to do something about it. He has created Parkstarter: a crowd-funded, pop-up park creation scheme. And he wants to try it out in his home city.

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Seattle blazes a hopscotch trail

Call it fate, call it something in the ether, or call it a sign of changing times, but word has reached me of a hopscotch game that will put ten-year-old Lilly Allen’s efforts to shame (not that we’re being competitive). Residents of Seattle are organising a hopscotch trail that is set to go for nearly 2 miles across the Central District – and it’s happening in a couple of weeks!

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Are child-friendly city approaches being used to push out poor families?

Rotterdam child-friendly city report coverRotterdam is one the few big cities that has taken seriously the goal of becoming more child-friendly. Its ambitious planning policies have been debated in the National Assembly for Wales (see this web page and the links from it for some English-language material). Its public space improvement projects have been lauded at international conferences (indeed in 2008 it hosted Child in the City, a leading global cross-disciplinary event). What is more, unlike some other Child-Friendly City initiatives, it focuses on hard outcomes that make a real difference in children’s lives – better parks, improved walking and cycling networks, wider pavements – and not just on participation processes that, however well-intentioned, may end up being idle wheels. I have visited Rotterdam and seen the impressive results at first-hand, and have promoted the city’s work in presentations. Yet according to one scholar, the city’s progressive stance hides a more sinister goal: the marginalisation and relocation of poor families.

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The sorry state of neighbourhood design in America: a mother writes

After my last blog post about German children having more everyday freedom than their English peers, Andrea – a German-born woman who now lives in the USA – got in touch to leave a comment. She had some revealing things to say about the differences between her home and adopted countries, and has agreed to let me share them more prominently. She paints a depressing picture of car-dependence and isolation: a stark comparison with her experiences in Germany. Here is her story.

Road near Bailey School, Minnesota.

Woodbury, MN. Source: Strongtowns.org

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