architecture : urban : visual culture

Child-friendly public space in Ivano-Frankivsk

Anita Reith, Anita Szöbölösi and Andrea Sípos in their plan plays with an idea of child-friendly public space in Ivano-Frankivsk. Their fous steps concept got international recognition. These steps are determining the sites's position, pick items from the toolbox, follow the holastic design approaches and let the children - and the adults - imagine. 

The four stepst concept

Step One: Determine the position of the site on the visibility chart!

A child-friendly urban design doesn’t just mean to create more playgrounds in the city. Playgrounds are designed for kids. Mostly ONLY for kids. Playgrounds are enclosed, controlled areas that say: ‘Please, play here!’ In this case the play area is completely separated from other common areas. The use and the targeted user groups are clear for everybody. In child-friendly urban spaces the play area is not separated from other usages but well-integrated into the public space itself. They target a wider range of users and not have boundaries. For the first sight they are look like a simple public space. They just have invisible options to play. In this case the city itself is the playground.

Visibility chart

The two end of this scale is very different but both of them is extremely important to have in a child-friendly city. The urban context (character, location, function, shape, size and other) determine what is suitable for the site. Also it is not a black-and-white situation: after analyzing the proposed area we can place it in the scale from 100 % visible to completely invisible.


Step Two: Pick items from the toolbox based on their visibility score!

Based on the visibility score we gave to the site we have to pick items that match. In our proposal we provide brief overview on play structures and their visibility score. Our visibility chart presents some examples in order from 100% visibility (playgrounds) to 0% visibility (invisible child-friendly urban spaces). It basically shows how obvious it is to play with these structures. It is important to note: visibility is meant from an average adult perception.


Step Three: Follow the holastic design approaches!
The main idea of the child-friendly urban spaces is to design the city itself to be a ‘playground’ - whether it is visible or not for adults. To make our public spaces safe, healthy and enjoyable for our children. Designers should be aware of slow traffic, clear zone separations with puffer zones, clean green areas and interactive, creative, sense-oriented places. In order to make our living environment child-friendly we have to follow four basic principles: Safety, healty, lively and Sustainability.


Step Four: Let them imagine!
How we think about our cities and urban neighbourhoods describes ourselves in general. What we see when we are kids determines the future relationship with our community. That is the reason why kids have to be considered as an extremely important public space users. Not only their eye-level is lower but they methodology of perception is very different from an average adult. It is not necessary to put all the pieces together for kids - their fantasy is lively and creative and they are happy to use it in every step they take in the city. Give options to kids to be creative and to learn!

Anita Reith, Anita Szöbölödi, Andrea Sipos

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