Building Playful Cities

Publisher: Child in the City

In these edited extracts from their new case study of the Dutch approach to playable urban design, the Scottish community architects, City for Play, explore how public investment in cycling and playgrounds, along with innovative residential street designs, have helped to make the Netherlands one of the most child friendly countries in the world.

If we accept that there is more to life than existence, work and everyday functioning, then we are open to the possibility that the well-functioning city must be at once ‘play-full’ and playful: ‘play-full’ in the sense that it provides an array of opportunities and opportunities (to play) for all; and ‘playful’ in the sense that its public spaces are inviting, challenging and creatively engaging.

Play-full and Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of Play in the Netherlands is a pilot study exploring select elements of a ‘Playful(l) Cities Manifesto’. The study aimed to understand the Netherlands’ renowned bicycle infrastructure: how it emerged, how it alters the way in which people use the city, and how it affects the lives of children and their experience of the city; (and how it) allowed us to explore the city’s vast array of playgrounds and playable space in the hope that we might define a range of typologies to better communicate how play can be integrated into a city.

Our study took in the experience of the Dutch cities, Delft and Amsterdam and will represent one of a series that explore and document ‘play provision’ and ‘attitudes towards play’ in an international context, with a view to understanding and exemplifying the “Playful (l) City”…


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