Designing public space is seen as something for trained professionals. But the Placemaking Toolkit shows how community groups and residents can do their own place make-over. The Guide is for community-driven, low-cost public space transformation. With the support of local government anyone can change a neglected space in their neighbourhood into a clean and safe play area or park. This Guide is especially relevant for developing countries and remote communities in any country. The Guide is from the Public Space Network.
Poorly designed spaces limit the number of people who can use them – they might look great, but that is not enough. Everyone should benefit from great civic space. The American Society of Landscape Architects has a great guide to Parks and Plazas. The online guide includes good case studies and easy to follow tips. Here are a few of the points covered. See the online guide for the rest.
Connections to the street: Parks and plazas should meet the street at grade, ensuring that anyone can enter the space. When a grade change must be addressed, integrated ramps and stairs create a unified experience regardless of ability. Safe materials that are, tactile, not slippery when wet, and provide high contrast should be chosen.
Clear identity:While maintaining a seamless entry from the street is important, creating a space separate from the street gives identity to the space. Trees can buffer noise and other sensory information from other areas.
Providing options: Public places serve many different groups of people, with differing needs. One solution is not going to accommodate everyone, but the scale of many public places creates room for spaces that give visitors different choices and opportunities.
Ease of access to restrooms: Bathrooms that are easy to locate allow families with children, people with disabilities, and older adults to readily use facilities that everyone needs. Placing bathrooms near streets and along major pathways of parks makes locating restrooms easier if the need arises. Restrooms should be clearly indicated on multi-sensory signage throughout parks and plazas.
Compliance with legal requirements in public spaces is rarely enough to guarantee access for everyone. A focus on technical aspects often results in spaces that are still challenging for many. The American Society of Landscape Architects has a Universal Design page where they list some of the disabilities and impairments regularly overlooked. For example, dementia, deafness, vision loss, and autism. The classic 7 Principles of Universal Design are re-jigged to suit landscape design:
Claremont College students from different disciplines joined the EnviroLab Asia 2019 Clinic Trip to Japan. A short video shows them checking out accessibility at Umeda train station and Ogimachi Park. The trip included time with Osaka Institute of Technology’s Robotics Department working on a project. They explored robotic technologies and universal design and created a model high tech recreational space for older people. The students conclude that barrier free places are not just for people with disability – it’s about including everyone.
Abstract:Studying Accessibility in Japan shows the research project led by Professor Angelina Chin (history, Pomona) with students who studied universal design and accessibility in Japan during the EnviroLab Asia 2019 Clinic Trip. The group also worked with the Osaka Institute of Technology’s Robotics Department.
Editor’s note: This is a video only publication – I couldn’t find any written material other than the abstract. The download button takes you to a high definition of the video, not a document. It is a very large file.
The principles of universal design were used in Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo during upgrade and extension works. This case studycovers changes to the entrance, maps and information, transportation within the park, toilets, benches, tables, and exhibit design and enhancement. In addition, trained staff are on hand to provide additional help to visitors where needed. Each improvement is matched to one or more of the seven principles of universal design. The conference paper ends with, “By incorporating the Principles of Universal Design all visitors are offered equal experiences as they interact with the animal, exhibits and each other. Without even realizing barriers have been removed, everyone, regardless of their abilities, has a more enjoyable and inclusive experience.”
Play is an essential part of a child’s development. The Touched by Olivia foundation conducted an online survey between August 2018 and January 2019. With 482 responses, the State of Play report provides a useful snapshot of play in Australia. It also lists the reasons people go to play spaces.
Touched by Olivia Foundation has a new playmate: Variety – The Children’s Charity. Together they will continue to promote and support inclusive playspaces across Australia. The aim of both charities was helped along last year by the NSW Government and their Everyone Can Play project. Universally designed play spaces welcome everyone no matter age or level of capability. They are places everyone can enjoy.
Editor’s Note: The report is published online with Issuu. Unfortunately, in full view, pop up advertisements make reading the report something of an obstacle course. There is no option for PDF download.
Inclusive play spaces are receiving more attention, but what equipment and design features are most suitable? Research in the US throws some light on this topic. Children, parents, teachers, landscape designers and equipment manufacturers all have a stake in the outcome. This means there are often gaps between what is required, what is available and what gets implemented. Building Playgrounds for Children of All Abilitieslooks at legal requirements and provides some useful recommendations. You will need institutional access for a free read. There is a useful reference list as well.
Abstract: Schools and communities typically design and build playgrounds with little knowledge that the selected playground equipment meets the needs of children, caregivers, and teachers. In this article, the various categories of playgrounds are discussed and analyzed. The focus of this discussion includes an overview of the legal requirements and guidelines for school and community playgrounds, a description of prior research highlighting the inadequacies in currently available playgrounds, and an explanation of the trends in playground design over the years. We relate these topics to the need for universally designed playgrounds and a deeper commitment to designing playgrounds and play equipment that is empirically tested and meets the needs of all children, their teachers, and their families. By discussing practical examples and research findings to illustrate the gap between playground manufacturers and their play equipment and playground consumers, this paper serves as a meaningful resource for teachers and other stakeholders so they have the knowledge to advocate for their students with disabilities in playground endeavors. Taking recent research findings into account, we provide a vision for playground policy change.
The arrival of Liberty Swing showed that children with disability should be considered in play spaces. But play space design has come a long way since their introduction. Children like to play together and it was the Touched by Olivia Foundation that started a grass roots movement to move from isolated and exclusive equipment to designs where all children could interact. ABC News has more on this story.
To help people with the concepts and design of inclusive play spaces, NSW Government has devised Everyone Can Play guideline. This document takes inclusive thinking a step further and considers parents and grandparents. Convenience for carers are key for getting children to the play spaces and the amount of time they spend playing. There are three key elements that must be considered in an inclusive play space: Can I get there? Can I play? Can I stay? These three elements basically sum up a universal design approach to almost anything. The short video sums up the concepts.
See also the post on Camp Manyung for the ultimate in inclusion.
It’s amazing what can be done when GPS data is linked to population data. The Danish study used satellite data to show a link between growing up near green space and issues with mental health in adulthood. They found that children under 10 years who had greater access to green space may grow up to be happier adults. The FastCo article goes on to say that data was correlated between the child’s proximity to green space during childhood and that same person’s mental health later in life. The more green space they had access to, the less likely they were to have mental health issues later.
Public parks can work their magic only if they give what people they need. People use green spaces in cities in different ways depending on their community’s historical experience and cultural standards. Access to parks is strongly linked with better health outcomes so it is important to design them in context. But the mere existence of a park does not ensure a community benefits from it. In an article for The Conversation, Thaisa Way covers the history of parks, importance of easy access and cultural relevance. Lots of links to research papers within the article titled: “Parks work for cities, but only if people use them”. And that is a question of design.