In recent decades, the public spaces of modern cities have gradually lost their function as spaces that facilitate and support the socialisation of residents and promote a sense of belonging. At the same time, while there is a willingness to design quality public spaces in the city, this approach is usually limited to the needs and desires of adults without central consideration of the differentiated experiences of children within the urban fabric.
The only public spaces designed for children are playgrounds, but these cannot meet children’s expanded needs for exploration, risk-taking, discovery, learning, and socialisation. Playgrounds seem like small enclosed spaces where children can behave like children in an otherwise hostile and dangerous urban environment.
But children’s play is a free, effortless, and natural process of learning and development that takes place wherever they are and wherever they move (playing balance games on the pavement, touching the different elements of the city’s urban furniture, hiding in the most unlikely places, listening to the sounds of the city, observing its images, etc.). This natural function of children is not taken into account in the design processes of public spaces.
Main objective of the “Play in the Square” project is to highlight children’s experiences in the city and to enhance their participation in the (re)design of more child-centred public spaces.
At the same time, we aim to support children to appropriate public spaces in their neighbourhood through creative processes. To achieve this, we will develop a pedagogical approach in an interdisciplinary and intercultural way, using tools and methods from architecture, anthropology, theatre and visual arts.
Through the creation of an interdisciplinary and intercultural pedagogical framework of action, our objectives are for children to:
- familiarize with the concept and structure of the neighbourhood (both spatial/urban and social/anthropological) as the closest urban space to them,
- express their diverse experiences, needs, and desires at the neighbourhood level,
- feel encouraged and actively participate in the (re)design of their neighbourhood, through familiarisation with participatory research and planning methods; and
- creatively appropriate the public spaces in their neighbourhood that are of particular value to them (e.g. square, pedestrian street) through an interdisciplinary and intercultural approach.
The implementation of the project is to be carried out in 2 phases.
In the 1st Phase of the project, the children are to become familiar through workshops with:
- the concept of neighbourhood and public space,
- several methods and tools of participatory research and mapping, and
- the identification of diverse desires and needs in public space.
In the 2nd Phase of the project, the children are to artistically appropriate the neighbourhood through workshops where they will:
- get to know and become familiar with artistic media and tools,
- construct one or more small-scale interventions with participatory design, and
- realize the physicality of public space.
Location: Primary School, Municipality of Athens.
Period: School year 2023 – 2024
The project is implemented with the funding and auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Sports and it is pending approval for pedagogical suitability from the Institute of Educational Policy (IEP) of the Ministry of Education.