Category Archives: Public space

On public space

My new book Urban Playground: Sneak peek and seasonal discounted price

Urban Playground book coverI 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.

2 dimensions of child-friendly cities imageChapter 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).

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A vibrant young city is building better neighbourhoods for early childhood. Can it sustain and broaden its impact?

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

How to build cities fit for children

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 report Building 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 Fellowship travels 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

How a focus on child-friendliness revived one city’s fortunes

I have been aware of Rotterdam’s child-friendly cities initiatives for at least ten years. It is the most ambitious I know, with the biggest budgets and the clearest focus. I have visited projects in 2014 and 2017, and have been impressed by what I saw.

Rotterdam child-friendly city report cover

So I was excited to be back in the city last month as part of my Churchill Fellowship travels, and eager hear more of the city’s story. And I quickly learnt one thing: Rotterdam’s push to become more child-friendly is deeply linked to its history, economy, demographics and built form.

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New Arup report places children at the heart of urban planning

Cover of Cities Alive: Designing for Urban ChildhoodsA new report from planning and built environment firm Arup argues that children should be central to good urban planning and design around the world.

Cities Alive: Designing for Urban Childhoods takes its cue from the oft-quoted maxim of Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa that the child is an indicator species for cities. Part of Arup’s Cities Alive series of publications, it shows that child-friendly urban planning is about much more than providing playgrounds. Rather, it is part and parcel of making cities more livable, sustainable and successful for all citizens. Continue reading

Is Calgary ready for child-friendly urban planning?

Calgary is the Canadian big city that looks and feels most like many US cities: sprawling, ever-expanding, and hugely car-centred. The very idea that the built form of the city could be great for children is likely to prompt a raised eyebrow from urban planners, if not outright derision.

I have just spent a week in the city, at the International Play Association conference, and then interviewing people and visiting sites as part of my Churchill Fellowship project looking at child-friendly urban planning. And my top-of-the-head response is that those urbanists would not be far wrong. But could this be about to change?

I’ll come back to that later. First, a thumbnail sketch of the city’s built form. Three broad types of residential neighbourhood form a classic urban typology for the city.

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