In this episode of Design and the City - a podcast by reSITE on how to make cities more liveable – scholar, writer and consultant Tim Gill, author of Urban Playground: How Child-Friendly Planning and Design Can Save Cities, talks about the importance of designing cities that can foster play and empower children autonomy, as a way of creating inclusive urban environments fit for all ages and abilities. Gill argues for enhancing children's everyday freedom and discusses his research into ideas and principles that would make neighbourhoods rich in experiences in possibilities, which he defines as child-friendly urban planning.
ReSITE - a global non-profit acting to improve the urban environment, launched the second instalment of its Design and the City podcast earlier this year, with previous guests including Winy Mass, Thomas Heatherwick and Gary Hustwit. Covering a wide range of inter-disciplinary topics, conversations on the podcast have ranged from issues such as surveillance and security to how to tackle gentrification in growing cities.
In conversation with Martin Barry and Alexandra Siebenthal, Tim Gill discusses how urban environments can nurture exploration and creativity as essential elements of childhood. The three discuss the differences in parenting methods, the shift to a more controlled and supervised childhood, arguing for more autonomy for children to explore and understand the environment in a non/prescriptive way. Gill identifies car culture as one of the major factors diminishing children's freedom in cities and creating a hostile environment for their development.
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Gill argues that focusing on children helps define an urban planning framework with a clear vision for the future. He sees an array of actors, from parents to teachers, urban planners, and decision-makers becoming more interested in shaping a built environment that caters to the needs of children and talks about examples of such actions from around the world. Through the podcast, Gill traces back the origins, advantages and shortcomings of playgrounds, touches on the lack of mobility and difficult access of children to amenities designed for them and discusses the impact of this lack of autonomy on children reaching adolescence.