I am delighted to share news that my forthcoming book Urban Playground: How child-friendly planning and design can save cities, is available to pre-order from the RIBA website here.
The book opens with an overview of urban planning and children, setting out why the topic matters. A working definition of child-friendly urban planning (familiar to readers of this blog) is set out in Chapter 2.
Chapter 3 looks in detail at Rotterdam, the city that has arguably devoted more time, money and energy to the approach than any other, and whose investment is grounded in hard-nosed economic priorities.
The geographical scope is expanded in Chapter 4, with case studies and precedents from a dozen or so cities around the world, from post-Communist Tirana to post-industrial Antwerp, from tropical Recife to Nordic Oslo, from historic Ghent to high-tech Vancouver (also taking in my home city of London).
It is not hard to see why early childhood should be a hot topic in Tel Aviv. The city has a booming cohort of young, aspirational parents, and recent unhappy memories of economic decline and falling populations. But why it should latch onto public space – rather than childcare – is less obvious.
The key to the story is a serendipitous, opportunistic partnership with the Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF). I have visited three of BvLF’s leading Urban95 cities now (the others being Tirana and Recife). My hunch is that the initiative has had a greater catalytic effect in Tel Aviv than in any of the other cities it has worked in. I visited the city at the end of February 2020 to find out more. Continue reading →
Authors: Tim Gill, Adrian Voce, Darell Hammond and Mariana Brussoni
Cities around the world are failing children. 30 years after the launch of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – which aimed to make children’s needs and views central in policy making – most cities are hostile if not life-threatening places for their youngest inhabitants.
The global death toll of children on the roads is surely the most shocking illustration of the failure of urban planning. Road traffic is the leading global cause of death among people aged 15–29, and the second highest single cause of death for children aged 5–14.
Why would a mayor decide that talking about children is the best way to fix a fast-growing, underfunded, polluted city whose people have a deep distrust for politicians? I spent a week in Tirana last month trying to answer this question.
The Tirana context First, some context. Tirana, the capital of Albania, is a city of around 1/2 million people (double that figure if you include the wider region). Physically, the city has both Eastern Bloc and Southern European qualities. The city centre is spacious and ordered, taking in wide boulevards, grand squares and buildings, and pleasant parks and green spaces.
After decades on the margins, child-friendly urban planning and design is emerging into the mainstream. What does this mean for children, for cities, and crucially for the decision-makers and professionals who will shape the futures of both?
My new reportBuilding Cities Fit for Children gives perhaps the first overview of the decisions and programs of those cities that are at the forefront of the movement to reshape their neighbourhoods with children and families in mind. Based on my Churchill Fellowshiptravels in Europe and Canada, the report takes as its starting point not what I think cities should be doing, nor what agencies like UNICEF are promoting, but what leading cities have actually done. Continue reading →