Fun (and serious) Urbanism – Child-friendly cities

The Guardian just published an article What Would the Ultimate Child-Friendly City Look Like? which details what five cities are doing to make their outdoor spaces and transportation systems really kid-friendly. We have Age-Friendly Northfield looking at how to make Northfield better for older adults, but what about kids?

Right now, Northfield is somewhat kid-friendly if you happen to live in the right neighborhood. My East Side neighborhood is a good place for a kids – say, 10 years old –  to independently travel on foot or bike to the library, swimming pool, and parks.Other neighborhoods face bigger obstacles like needing to Highway 3. Walking or biking to school is unsafe for many, even those who live close to schools.

What would a truly child-friendly Northfield look like?

Really not kid-friendly


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.