Beyond textbooks, we need more child-friendly urban design
This is an article that was deliberately pushed off-peak.
Every year on 6.1 Children's Day, children are expected to be funny, and big friends take the opportunity to be cute. We always say it's great to be a carefree kid, but the reality is often much worse.
Do not believe? Try leaning down and looking at the world from a child's height of 1 meter, you will find that today's cities and communities are full of dangers: too high steps, out of reach washbasin and elevator buttons, lack of children's perspective leads, rampant road traffic …every bit can be frustrating, frustrating, terrifying.
We need more child-friendly design and more inclusive cities, not just on a given day.
When a park suitable for walking children, won an international award
If you open Xiaohongshu and ask, "What's so interesting about Shenzhen Talent Park", funny bloggers will tell you that it is talent, and young people who love life will tell you that this is a mecca for photography, and parents agree "It's a great place to walk the kids."
In April this year, the German iF Design Award announced the 2022 winners. Among the 99 winning projects in the architectural design category, this baby-friendly park was listed for its kid-friendly design.
Shenzhen Talent Park opened in November 2017, and the award-winning child-friendly design was transformed in 2020.
The "old routine" of finding an open space to put plastic slide facilities is different. The design team AUBE said that they aimed at the growth needs of children aged 3-14, from nature, science, art, games, care and safety. A total of 6 Starting from one dimension, I hope to give parents and children a rich tour experience.
Children who like to be in close contact with nature can learn to identify plants in the park: watch the ebb and flow of the tide on the rocks and grassy slopes, fish and catch shrimp; or follow the guide to watch birds and explore the migration of migratory birds.
Children who go out to play and do not forget to study can visit the science and technology exhibition for teenagers, go to the book reading room, walk on the bridge and recite pi to the decimal point of 2017, and discover the stories of famous people in the park.
If you just want to play hard, you can go straight to the sand pool to build a castle, roll around in the free terrain area, and explore all kinds of novel and interesting game facilities. Children of all ages can enjoy skateboarding, kite flying and running in the open field.
▲ Screenshot from Xiaohongshu
In addition to diverse experiences, Shenzhen Talent Park also considers the needs of children from various details.
For example, map guide signs, stools, toilets and other supporting facilities have taken into account the child-friendly scale; childlike graffiti helps to cultivate aesthetic cognition; and actively choose safe, environmentally friendly and non-toxic materials.
▲ Zebra crossing specially designed for children, the picture is from the public account "AUBE OBOR DESIGN"
These warm details are just a small cut corner of Shenzhen's construction of a child-friendly city in recent years.
In 1989, the United Nations promulgated the "Convention on the Rights of the Child", which states that a child is anyone under the age of 18 and has basic rights such as survival, development, protection, and participation. In 1996, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched the Child-Friendly Cities Initiative, which believes that whether large, medium or small cities or communities, children's rights and needs should be considered in decision-making in public affairs.
In 2016, Shenzhen incorporated the construction of a child-friendly city into the “13th Five-Year Plan” and put it into practice. Last year, the national "14th Five-Year Plan" proposed to carry out 100 demonstrations of child-friendly cities, and more and more domestic cities have carried out their own explorations.
So far, the hardware construction of Shenzhen's child-friendly city has achieved certain results. Official data shows that at present, there are as many as 273 child-friendly bases of various types in Shenzhen; a total of 1,100+ mother and baby rooms have been built, basically achieving full coverage of public places such as transportation hubs, parks, and commercial centers; 722 community children's homes, each There are more than 1200 parks.
▲ Baihua 2nd Road, Shenzhen's first child-friendly neighborhood, pictured from the public account "Shenzhen Women and Children's Development Foundation"
In April, Shenzhen issued the Guidelines for the Construction of a Child-Friendly Public Service System , which is also the first local standard for the construction of child-friendly cities in China. The regulations are more systematic, pointing out that we should start from 8 aspects: health, education, culture and sports, games, travel, community and family, social security, and legal protection; they are also more detailed and more human, such as no parking lot within 50 meters of the campus. , Inpatient children over 10 years of age are divided into rooms by gender, etc.
Although Shenzhen has always paid attention to issues such as basic medical care, education, and protection of special children, in an interview with the Southern Metropolis Daily , Liu Lei, deputy chief planner of the Shenzhen Urban Planning and Design Institute, said that in the past, Shenzhen did not consider the city from the perspective of children The planning is not really kid friendly.
Child-friendly cities are self-reflection from an adult perspective, a reflection on the urban planning industry, and ultimately, a collective reflection on society as a whole.
Child friendly, not just childcare facilities and playgrounds
When it comes to child-friendliness today, many people may first think of architectural designs that allow children to be close to nature and return to their nature.
For example, the Fuji kindergarten designed by Tezuka Takaharu and Tezuka Yubi couple:
▲ Fuji Kindergarten, designed by Tezuka Architects, connects the ground and roof by escalators
Ma Yansong's floating roof kindergarten:
▲ Beijing Lecheng Siheyuan Kindergarten, designed by MAD Architects, forms a collision of old and new with the surrounding courtyards
In recent years, some schools in Shenzhen are also rethinking high-density cities, considering how to use limited space to meet the needs of children's healthy growth:
▲ The Eastern Bay Area Experimental School in Pingshan District, Shenzhen, designed by CMAD Architects, has a rooftop playground, rooftop farm, overhead activity area, etc.
These novel space cases have brought inspiration to the architectural design world.
Liu Lei once summarized the problems of children in high-density modern cities , mainly including children who are looking for mothers (lack of parent-child time & parent-child activities), children on standby (lack of educational resources), plastic children (the assembly line of amusement facilities is unnatural), and children with power sockets (electronic equipment). Excessive play), nature-deficit children (away from nature), children in the back seat of cars (unsafe streets), disciplined children (away from nature, lack of participation), etc.
But looking around the world, in the entire urban planning, the problem of children's lack of independent travel freedom has received the most common attention.
In 2020, the Beijing Institute of Urban Planning and Design conducted a survey on 348 parents and children , and the results showed that children's travel situation was helpless to "disagree between words and deeds":
- 85% of children prefer to go out than to stay at home. But they actually travel twice a day on average, and the frequency decreases with age;
- Children's favorite modes of travel are walking (61%) and cycling (50%). But in fact the most frequent ride is a private car (78%);
- 80% of children over the age of 12 want to travel independently, or with only peers. But in reality, 40% of children over the age of 12 cannot achieve this idea.
- Children's favorite places are open spaces that are close to nature, and comfortable and fun public spaces. However, the most frequent ones are small parks and open spaces downstairs.
▲ Children of different ages have different independent travel situations, the picture is from the public account cityif
The reasons behind this are due to street safety considerations, as well as many obstacles on the sidewalk, lack of care in public transportation, no age-zoned use of outdoor venues, and incomplete guidance systems for children.
A set of figures cited in the United Nations Handbook on Child-Friendly Cities Planning is even more alarming – more than 3,000 children are killed or seriously injured in road traffic every day around the world, which is equivalent to the number of students in two large schools.
In the past, the street was a playground for children to play, throwing stones, playing with slingshots and even frying cow dung after school, all explored the world in public spaces. However, with the development of urbanization today, parents are not even worried about letting a 12-year-old child go downstairs to help make soy sauce. They can only stay at home and wait for adults to accompany them on the trip.
▲ Children in the 1980s, pictured from Akiyama Ryoji's photo album "The Scenery Is Like Yesterday"
Tim Gill is the author of Urban Playgrounds: Kid-Friendly Planning and Design Can Save Cities. He believes that the "unfreedom" of children is the fault of urban planning, and we should not "raise" children in captivity.
Cities need to enhance children's daily freedoms, not just build places called "playgrounds": fenced around, parents bring in, children can play in several different facilities, and then be taken home.
A city should be a place for children to explore and meet friends. They can go to school by themselves, play sports, go to the library, or hang out with friends. It shouldn't be a luxury, it's an important part of childhood.
Architect Natalia Krysiak, who launched Cities For Play in 2017, traveled to Tokyo to investigate child-friendly design in high-density cities.
There, she was quite surprised to see six-year-olds go to school alone with schoolbags, confidently crossing the street and taking the subway.
▲ Figure from Cities for Play
Krysiak found in later research that this kind of "freedom" seems reckless, but in fact, the city and the community have spent a lot of care on it——
There are walkie-talkies and telephone booths in the subway station, which children can use at any time when they need it; some areas around the school are closed to vehicles during school hours; in addition, there are also road signs suitable for children, such as a big foot pattern painted on the ground to remind children to stop Wait for the traffic lights.
There are even retirees who volunteer in the school district, helping younger children cross the road and making sure that traffic doesn't break the law.
▲ Figure from Cities for Play
From neighbors, shopkeepers, conductors, passersby on bikes to retired volunteers, all are happy to help the little ones. Krysiak calls this community atmosphere "group dependence," reminiscent of the adage: To raise a child, it takes a village.
Child-friendly urban planning ideas don’t just benefit this group.
As Enrique Peñalosa, mayor of Colombia's capital Bogota, said, "If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a city for everyone."
Today, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is one of the most bike- and pedestrian-friendly cities in the world. But that wasn't the case decades ago.
In 1971, more than 400 children were killed in traffic accidents in Amsterdam throughout the year, shockingly.
To this end, Amsterdam launched the "Stop Murdering Children" campaign, pointing out that the deaths of children in traffic accidents are not accidents, but murders – because it is completely avoidable. The campaign pushed for reforms in road and transportation policy, and later, gradually formed "living roads" with lower speed limits.
▲ Picture from Unsplash
The UN Handbook on Child-Friendly Cities Planning says:
If a space is planned and constructed to respect the needs of children, there is no doubt that the space will also respect everyone in society.
Children can teach us the most basic common sense. Their participation in and daily interaction with urban life and their use of urban spaces reflect the needs of all vulnerable groups in the community, including the disabled and the elderly.
Just like the infant friendliness behind facilities such as mother and baby rooms, it is also woman friendly and family friendly to a certain extent, because this group of children cannot be separated from the company of caregivers. The city's speed-limited zoning and ramps for strollers can also bring convenience to groups with reduced mobility.
More inclusive, healthier and more liveable urban child-friendly cities may still be an unfamiliar concept to most people.
But Tim Gill points out that bringing in children's needs and perspectives represents a shift from short-term to long-term thinking in urban planning.
If you think about kids, you can't help but look at the long-term and take what works better for most people. Children are the real catalysts, sparking conversations about the nature of cities and how they need to change.
A city is truly friendly when the 1-meter-tall world is friendly enough.
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