My nephews are fortunate. They live on a verdant property called Hungrytown Hollow among enormous trees and bucolic rolling hills outside Charlottesville, Virginia. In the summertime the two boys splash around in a lake near their property and go on long hikes with their father. They chase chickens and plant seeds and are called upon to help harvest crops, make jam, and even bake bread.
Sadly, and I know they would feel the same way, they represent a very small minority of young boys in the world blessed with such an environment. But that’s not the only way to live. How to ensure that children can still thrive in dense third world cities is a topic of concern for LPU – a Rome-based organization that strives to encourage traditional children’s play to integrate different communities around the world.
The group recently teamed up with Tareeq in Jordan to address just this, with some very exciting results.
What the children want
Tareeq is an open studio that provides a platform for cross-disciplinary intellectual exchange both online and in real physical space. Eager to help LPU provide an engaging space for youth to play among Amman’s decidedly ungreen spaces, Tareeq asked the children what they want and need from their city.
After heeding their concerns and recommendations, the group consulted with city officials and local residents to map out a plan to create a carefully-designed and stimulating enclave within the city. This space enables the young revelers to play, unfettered, without the constraints of security concerns.
Contrary to popular myth, according to Tareeq, children don’t need massive green parks to live a vibrant life.
Play space doesn’t have to be especially green
“According to our method, we build up empty urban spaces that are currently used as de facto walkways and shortcuts. We mold them into areas that invite pause. The spaces we design are both created and maintained by those who use them,” the group reported on Smart Urban Stage.
They have sourced a small u-shaped space huddled among a series of two-story buildings on which to place their new play area, which will be unveiled some time in the near future.
LPU notes that “congested public spaces, long distances and a lack of security that this produces rob children of their potential.” And if we want children to really flourish in urban environments, it may well help to involve them in the playground design process.
This kind of democratic involvement will be a new experience for Jordan’s children, but Tareeq reports that the parents have encouraged them to express themselves as openly as possible.