Fun urbanism: Age-friendly edition

As someone who is only temporarily middle-aged, I’m hoping to live in a place where being old is not made more difficult by my built environment. Northfield might be that place by the time I get old.  The Northfield City Council just heard a presentation from a group working for an Age-Friendly Northfield using the AARP Age-Friendly Communities model which could help make our streets, neighborhoods, and human connections better for older people (and younger ones, too – think of the 8-80 idea).

But beyond friendly, What about fun?  Here are some playgrounds for seniors (and anyone else):

London Senior Playground (Photo: Guardian)

London Senior Playground (Photo: Guardian Cities)

Fun urbanism – design your own fun

Play is important for learning, exercise, community-building, and fun.  Although one can play pretty much anywhere, some places just invite a bit more playful interaction.

So here’s the PlayScapes competition to choose a design to recycle a not very good place into a playful, productive place.

“Ask yourself where is that part of the city that is underused, undervalued, by-passed everyday because it’s unsafe, dirty or just so boring that no one notices it.”


Fun urbanism – more slides

British football fans may soon be able to have more fun than just the game at St. James Park in Newcastle.  Slides from the stadium seating 53,000 to the parking area and train station are planned and waiting for approval.  Utrecht’s “travel accelerators” got the ball sliding, so to speak, and Newcastle is looking to make the slides part of a pocket park near the stadium.  As one of the slide designers noted: “We want people to ride the slide, then go up the stairs and do it again.”

There is one other sliding possibility in Newcastle already – a 230m zip line from the Tyne Bridge across the Tyne River.


Keeping the fun in Fun Urbanism

Not ADA-compliant, but fun.

Fun, as a design tool in urbanism, is increasingly used to make people proud and cautious of their environment says Pop Up City in a post on a “waterbed” pavement by artist collective Raum in Bourges, France. The undulating pavement, in turn, “questions the hardness of the city and its ability to change.”

Oh dear, that really takes the fun out of it. Fun, as a urban design tool, invites people to play instead of doing things the usual way, often fostering human interactions, too.  Usually low-cost, private “interventions” to get our attention: Stairs or slide?  Stairs or escalator?  Swings or bench?  Fun side effects might include more physical activity, more conversations, more reasons to play in the city.  Play helps spark innovation, too, for other creative problem solving, but first let’s play without the pseudo philosophy.


Tidying up maps – a different sort of urban fun

Magritte, tidied

I got the book Tidying Up Art awhile back and it may be my favorite art book of all time because you can actually learn a great deal about art while laughing your head off.  Now, Krulwich wonders on his “science-y blog” about city maps which have been tidied up by Armelle Caron (Krulwich also wondered about Ursus Wehrli’s extreme tidying displayed in Tidying Up Art) and this is an interesting glance at urban form, but not nearly so funny as what happens to Roy Lichtenstein.

Going to the dogs



I have two dogs: Sasha and Laika.  They’re big dogs, so they need exercise and we spend quite a lot of time walking around town.

When Jay Walljasper spoke to an NDDC gathering several years ago, he noted that if the city was good for dogs, it was likely to be pretty good for people, too.   Dogs may be an indicator species for designing urban spaces and here’s another piece suggesting what a  dog’s eye view of urban planning might require.  Unfortunately, there is also a downside for trees in dog-dense neighborhoods.

And just because I like stories about dogs and the many ways dogs and humans learn to adapt to each other…it seems dogs can learn how to commute via subway in Moscow and London.





Mooning the street

Henrietta surveys the street

I have a couple of particular pet peeves in planning trends and one of the strongest is how, in the last 25 years or so, houses turned their backs on the streets and parks.  Yes, we have forgotten which are the private parts of buildings and moon the street.

I live in a part of town predating the great turnaround. My back yard (which does not abut a street) is where I take the dog out while I am still wearing my pajamas.  My front yard is where I sit on the steps (after I have put on my real clothes), say hello to the neighbors and watch people slow down to look at Henrietta the giant chicken (or the bright blue, red, yellow and green trim).