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)

No fun urbanism

Sarah Goodyear doesn’t want us to have fun.  She complains fun urban tricks like swings, slides and games are “dangerously beside the point” of making cities safer, cleaner and more livable.

I think this criticism misses the point.  Swings and slides are not “design solutions” and I don’t believe they’re intended to solve big city problems.  No one is proposing substituting crosswalk pong for better pedestrian design and to make city residents safer on the streets.

Little bits of fun and delight help make the city a better place to live or visit, a better place to advocate for larger/deeper solutions and a better place to connect with other people. Building small scale, small budget fun into the city helps encourage larger cultural climate change which can help create advocates for better design, safer pedestrian facilities, and more livable cities because people want to be there.

For a small city like Northfield where it is almost always more obvious and more convenient to drive, an excuse to get out of the car and play is needed.  Playing pong here:


might get a few more people walking and a few of those might think “Let’s fix this stroad so it’s easier, safer and more fun to cross.” Then, maybe one person starts advocating for substantial change.







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.


Fun Urbanism

Good dog!

There’s New Urbanism and Tactical Urbanism, but I’m trying to promote Fun Urbanism.  I love cities, especially big cities, because there are unexpected places or events which help multitudes of strangers play together.

What better place to help people play than the London Underground?  Millions travel by Tube – why not make it fun?   With elephants.  And art.