Studying child-friendly cities, Northern European style

This post shares news of the second and final leg of my Churchill Fellowship study tour, which starts on Monday 26 Feb. In the following four weeks the tour will take me to Antwerp, Ghent, Rotterdam, Oslo and Freiburg (dates below).

Along the way I will meet decision-makers, municipality officials and partner agencies to find out more about each city’s efforts to make their streets, parks and public spaces more child-friendly, and to make it easier for children to travel around their neighbourhoods and the city beyond.

I also plan to gain some insights into children’s own experiences of the neighbourhoods where they live and play.

Playful public space, Vauban, Freiburg

Playful public space, Vauban, Freiburg

What am I most excited about? Each city, I am sure, will have intriguing stories to tell, and it is hard to pick out one destination. But I am particularly looking forward to returning to Freiburg, a city whose naturalistic approach to playground design made such a strong impression on me when I helped the UK Forestry Commission organise a study tour there in 2005.

This time, I will be staying in Vauban: the world-renowned car-free neighbourhood where the whole of the public roam is designed to be safe, welcoming and playful for people of all ages. [Casual request: if you know any families who live in the district, feel free to put me in touch with them – I’d love to hear their perspectives on what it is like.]

I plan to share some insights and experiences here on my website over the coming weeks. So do check in – and feel free to comment.

My diary is fairly full, but if any readers want to meet up at any point, do get in touch and let’s see what we can do.

Antwerp     26 Feb – 1 March
Ghent     2 – 7 March
Rotterdam     8 – 13 March
Oslo     14 – 19 March
Freiburg     20 – 24 March

I want to thank Wim Seghers (Antwerp), Marianne Labre (Ghent), Ekin Yazbahar-Sonmez (Rotterdam), Tassy Thompson (Oslo) and Ellen Weaver (Freiburg) for all their support in drawing up the schedule for my trip. The time, enthusiasm and local knowledge they have offered is a testament to precisely the kind of international cooperation that the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust was set up to foster. I am also immensely grateful to the Trust for this wonderful opportunity.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the work of Prof Baldo Blinkert, who sadly passed away last November. (Read a google-translated obituary here.) As a sociologist and activist, Baldo was one of the architects of Freiburg’s approach to child-friendly, sustainable urban planning. I first heard him speak in London in 2004 before getting to know him a little better during my 2005 visit to his home city. We had recently reconnected over my trip plans, and it is a source of great sadness that this project will not be able to benefit from his insights, expertise and generosity of spirit.


6 responses to “Studying child-friendly cities, Northern European style

  1. Pingback: Studying child-friendly cities, Northern European style — Rethinking Childhood | Old School Garden

  2. Pingback: Antwerp’s Play Space Web: smart, child-friendly neighbourhood planning in action | Rethinking Childhood

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  5. Pingback: How a focus on child-friendliness revived one city’s fortunes | Rethinking Childhood

  6. Pingback: My new book Urban Playground: Sneak peek and seasonal discounted price | Rethinking Childhood

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