Where are the children?

A common trend we have seen through this course so far is how to develop spaces for all kinds of people. We have met with farmers, activists, city officials and local residences to address what should be done with the Parco Sant’Angleo. However, we have neglected to include a target audience in the discussion: the Italian youth.

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The illustration above is a drawing done by one of the children present at the park clean up we participated in. As one can see, she did not desire to turn the park entirely into a giant play area. Rather, she wanted many of the same things we (the adults) did. As a child, however, her ideas and contributions would not be taken seriously. We mainly regard kids as innocent and naive. Their answers to solutions may be ridiculous, and this is reflected in modern city planning and urban design. The readings have demonstrated that kids are disappearing from the city landscape and are misrepresented. The data show that children do not want large isolated play areas, but instead prefer open, natural, multi-functional zones. But we think we know better. We use the claim that safety is top priority in order to plan cities the way adults wish to use them: fenced-in schools to keep kids away from the street, dismantling playgrounds to safeguard from broken bones and bruises. But in doing so we are limiting imagination and removing risk-taking from each child’s development. It mitigates physical well being as well as emotional.

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The picture above is a new-age playground in the UK that has been deemed as “safe.” And one would be right to think so at first glance. However, in this setting a child cannot be child. They cannot climb, dangle, flip, spin, etc. So could youth-orientated architecture like this really be considered child friendly.

This is something I wish I had thought about during our neighborhood meeting last week. We all got to speak up on what we would like to see in the park. Even we, the students who will most likely never see this city again post-December got to way in. But the youth, who seemed to be the target audience for the park, were not involved in the decision making process. No child was there to say what they think would make the park better. And yet we all were appalled by the playground and wanted it fixed immediately for the kids. It’s our responsibility as Placemakers to make a room for all people. This includes the ones whose future we are constantly fighting for.

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