The urban environment is lacking in terms of children. Cities, in reality, are the domain of the adult. Its streets are filled with cars and people busily rushing around. Increasingly much of its space is swallowed up for private investment. ‘Regeneration’ of course is important for all cities. However, in a bid to make a city more amenable to its adults, children can be an afterthought. Development can focus too much on building a city in terms of enhancing its economy. Increasingly, office space and living space for workers take precedence over existing communities and the children which inhabit these spaces. This over reliance on this form of urban regeneration can have a detrimental effect on a cities development. A lack of real social spaces in a city impacts upon building strong and inclusive communities as people are not afforded a chance for proper interaction.
Today within Dublin space is once again at a premium. The cranes are back, standing tall across our skyline. The icons of austerity left to gather litter and weeds are now being snapped up and subsumed into the realm of the private. As the office blocks and apartments once again begin to rise, Dublin’s landscape is increasingly being glazed over with a sleek corporate veneer. Clearly, this form of development is required for our city to grow and compete at a global level. Yet, in our bid to make Dublin a more attractive space for corporate investment are we neglecting existing communities that have now fallen within the shadows of these symbols of Dublin’s continuous gentrification? As the city’s spaces increasingly become private, important social spaces fundamental to communities and more specifically youth development become increasingly under threat.
In this environment Play can be given little thought in terms of being incorporated into a cities development. But what if Dublin took on a more strategic approach to Play in terms of making an impactful contribution to Dublin’s development. What would this look like? A water slide down O’Connell Street? Admittedly that would be fun…but a tad impractical and possibly hypothermic come January. In our vision a playful strategy would look to spaces between the spaces in the city – the laneways, the paths, the streets and through small scale, low-fi but high impact playful interventions re-imagine these spaces into purposeful unique and inclusive spaces for the communities that inhabit them. A Playful Dublin in this sense allows for an environment that can help children to learn and understand the world they find themselves in. In this environment children are acknowledged as individuals and citizens in their own right and where their needs are put on an equal footing with adults. An increase in such spaces not only help in the development of children, but also become important communal nodes within our city. Such places allow for interaction within communities, something which is slowly disappearing from today’s society. Thus, they become important scenes that allow cities to become more inclusive, culturally aware and socially acceptable.
This discussion will continue in the Design Meets Play Conference which will be held on 17th October at the Point Village. With over 20 celebrated speakers from around the world including Turner Prize winning Assemble Collective, the conference will take an inclusive approach on developing playful cities for all ages and abilities. To join in, register on www.aplayfulcity.com with a special discount: TotallyDublinReader
Words: A Playful City
Images: Big Slide by Assemble
The Brutalist Playground by Assemble and Simon Terrill (Photo by Tristan Fewings Getty Images for RIBA courtesy of Assemble)