Although there were few of play facilities or artificial toys, the author enjoyed his childhood playing with various natural plants and wild animals and is proud of his knowledge about animals’ habits and characteristics, as well as the fun of playing in the creeks, woods, and fields. Regrettably, all these precious experiences are rarely found in city today because the prevalence of artificial landscapes and industrialized lifestyles highly relying on electronic technologies has deprived children of the opportunity to explore nature. By refreshing his memory of childhood, the author reflects what kind of play space do children need in city today — borderless natural ones may be an answer.
The Child Friendly Cities Initiative launched by UNICEF aims to protect child rights and promote the establishment of urban and community environment conductive to children development, and safety must be guaranteed first as the precondition of the child rights. Based on social, health, and mobility safety required by the initiative, this paper focuses on how to evaluate children’s mobility safety in the community environment. After literature review, 41 indicator articles involving 18 assessment tools and 82 other articles were screened, and safety-related indicators were selected to establish an evaluation indicator framework composed of three first-level indictors, i.e., motor traffic environment, walking / bicycling environment, and other indicators. They were further subdivided into 11 second-level indicators, 29 third-level indicators, and more fourth-level indicators. Although this framework needs localized verification and adaption in Chinese cities, it can help systematically improve the mobility safety requirements of the existing regulations and guidelines of urban environment construction to establish a multi-leveled indicator system and provide references for performance evaluation on related practice at all stages.
Afterschool is an important time period for children to improve their weekday physical activity. This study aimed at filling a gap in people’s knowledge of middle school children’s afterschool activity in China. In order to study afterschool activity of children living in urban villages and planned communities in Shenzhen, a questionnaire was applied in three schools located in the typical school districts in Shenzhen, aimed at a 100% sample of randomly selected classrooms. Complete data for moderate-to-vigorous physical activities (MVPA), cram schools, sedentary activities, and the itineraries of their school-to-home commutes were obtained for 5 weekdays in one week in an in-class survey, for a total of 366 complete surveys. It was found that a greater active commuting distance from school generated more MVPA, and there was a distance threshold for active commutes. Children residing in urban villages travelled farther and engaged in more MVPA than did children in planned residential areas. MVPA varied greatly among children but was unrelated to the number of cram schools or transport mode to school. Although these results showed greater levels of afterschool activity than that have been found generally in surveys in Western contexts, such active activity terminates in the final year of middle school when students devote nearly all available time to study for high school entrance exams. This study revealed the importance of social context and distance to school for children’s MVPA in China, and pointed out that the current urban planning contributes to active travel of children but needs further adjustment to mitigate the effects of increasing motorization, bigger roads, and physical barriers to movement.
Introducing the case of the Kids’ Gardens in Yucai No. 3 Primary School in Changsha City, Hunan Province, this study established sociograms upon the contact-frequency-based network with UCINET to systematically analyze the characteristics of different participants in the process of the childfriendly community building and the varying pattern of all social relations, aiming at addressing problems emerging in public participation and multi-stakeholder collaboration in Chinese mainland. It was found that by bonding stakeholders including citizens, the government and party organizations, universities, and public institutions and enterprises, this practice encouraged the school — as a community — to leverage its internal resources. The school finally overcame the organizational inertia and achieved independent operation and growth during the process of community building. The study also demonstrated that the social network of participants was developed and defined with both independent and dependent modes from an overall perspective, of which the former characterized for its dominant internal ties and a dense tree-like hierarchical management structure might be more efficient. From a participant perspective, the brokerage roles in key nodes were critical to the community building. Finally, spatial design strategies, including enhancing the spatial affordance to serve diverse activities, space zoning and allocation, offering “half-done” spaces, and phased development, were provided for similar community building practice.
Nowadays, chronic non-communicable diseases have impacted the overall public health level of societies and caused severe socio-economic burden. Empirical studies have revealed that physical activities can promote active living and help prevent and heal non-communicable diseases. Evaluation of built environment factors associated with physical activities is the precondition of promoting active living through environmental planning and design. This paper focuses on environmental audit tools related to physical activities, reviews the background, interests, and progress of international research, and compares the option forms, main measured factors, scoring methods, and application suitability of 26 audit tools. It then categorizes these audit tools into the ones for community, open space, and other scenarios, and examines their indicator items respectively. The paper concludes a preparation pattern across various audit tools, and identifies that facilities, accessibility, visual quality, and safety are the indicators most commonly measured. This paper attempts to introduce international experience of developing, analyzing, and verifying audit tools to inform Chinese research and practice and provide references for evaluating the design and construction of healthy cities or communities.
Landscape performance evaluation plays an important role in Landscape Architecture’s transformation to an evidence-based science. Most of existing relevant studies focus on the selection of evaluation indicators and methods, or description of the sustainability characteristics of completed projects, while in-depth theoretical discussion on its development processes and essential connotation is still in shortage. By tracing back and comparing the theoretical characteristics and development relationships of the three major systems — POE, SITES, and LPS, this paper clarifies the evolution of landscape performance evaluation towards serving evidence-based design, and further expounds its connotation of discovering the causality of design strategies and benefit results. Finally, two research interests, “feedback analysis of design efficiency” and “producing practical and operable knowledge” are proposed with significance as a key to support high-performance landscape design practices with reliable evidences.
An important consideration in designing urban spaces for children is that it should aid children’s development and learning. An extensive literature from Cognitive Science has established that children’s social, cognitive, and motor development is promoted by various, wellresearched types of play. This article reviews the body of knowledge from Cognitive and Developmental Science concerning the benefits of play for learning and explains that it can and should be harnessed by urban designers. First, the review shows that different types of play confer different learning benefits. Urban space design that attempts to maximize learning from play should consider design’s affordance — what types of play are afforded by the design. Second, evidence from Cognitive Science show that children’s learning and exploration are fostered by challenge and ambiguity. Design that embraces these increases learning and creativity. Third, play is critical for children’s social learning, as it gives children the opportunity to practice social interaction. Urban design can catalyze social learning by creating spaces and structures that invite play among peers, as well as parent-child play. Beyond this theoretical review, this article also illustrates how to realistically implement these Cognitive Science-oriented urban design with an authentic case study.
This article reviews the concepts of child rights and Child Friendly City at first and underlines that essentially Child Friendly City construction is to protect and guarantee child rights. By examining China’s reality of the design practice for children, the author points out that to build a Child Friendly City, two challenges must be addressed: interpreting child rights in different societal and cultural contexts, and mitigating interest conflicts between the protection of child rights with the current urban construction. In response, the author emphasizes the importance to build child’s infrastructure that is devised to serve varied scenarios, purposes, and childhoods, as well as the fact that this is not a once-forall investment but requires an evolving planning mechanism. Finally, the article states that children’s participation is the key to Child Friendly City construction and the greatest challenge to local implementation, which asks for long-term capacity building for children’s participation and strong support by a top-down management system.
More than 20 years have passed since the launch of the Child Friendly Cities Initiative. However, relevant practices in China are still insufficient and laggard. This article concludes two reasons: 1) children participation in the design process is far insufficient and results in the failure of the expression of core users’ demands; and 2) landscape architects less think of the holism of such children spaces at a city scale with considerations on city’s cultural identity and societal backdrops, and also ignore the influence of such places on children’s development. With these problems in mind, this article proposes that landscape architects can draw inspiration from the Ecological Systems Theory and Public Participation Theory, actively expanding their responsibilities in the establishment of Child Friendly City. Following that, three international case studies, namely Growing Up Boulder Initiative, Play and Informal Recreation Strategy of London, and Green Schoolyard America, are introduced to demonstrate that landscape architects should not just design proposals, but act as coordinators among different parties and leaders of innovative urban space renovation. As the integrator of the urban spatial framework, landscape architects should go beyond the design of individual playgrounds and focus on improving community environment and the spatial pattern of the whole city, in order to protect child rights and to realize integration and improvement of urban spaces.
Tetris Square is a commercial plaza located in a corner of a large mixed-use development in Tianhe District, Guangzhou. Designers treated the site as an urban public space rather than a commercial place simply for children play, with focus on younger users and core families. Landscape architects attempt to respond to a series of community demands with a smarter proposal. Instead of a direct use of finished play equipment, designers create many flexible spaces for diverse play experience, and “hide” a grove by integrating it into the play facilities, which introduces an urban oasis attracting more visitors to the square. This does not follow the conventional design principle of commercial spaces which is to plant as few trees as possible for a maximum storefront display. The grid modules of squares make facility fabrication and installation much easier, helping save the costs and ensure the construction quality. Assembled precast concrete outdoor furniture was used extensively in the whole complex. Landscape architects designed only two basic precast concrete modules, which could be assembled into more than twenty combinations. Now Tetris Square is an urban playground for children and their parents, as well as a public space for other residents in adjacent communities. The project provides children with fun and happiness through user-friendly and naturalized design, encouraging children’s cognitive learning from the external world, and simulating their imagination and creativity in play.
The landscape renovation project of Shekou School Square in Nanshan District of Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China is a micro renewal of urban public space. Through a seven-day investigation on user behaviors of the square, the design team recorded various usage needs and learned about the deep feelings of the local residents to the site. The team then conceived a design theme of “Time Story” by opening the boundary of the site and creating recreational spaces and features such as modular seats, school logo display wall, childhood game silhouettes on planters, interactive installations for science education, and physical game patterns on the ground, the needs of various groups were met and more ways to use the square could be developed. The team adopted a research-based method and refined design to create a public space that is conducive to the physical and mental health of children and the elderly, promoting communication and interaction between different user groups, and significantly improving the quality of urban public space. In addition, the team’s post-occupancy observation and reflections on maintenance and utilization provide valuable experience for future design.
The article reflects on the IBTASEM playground project, looking at the process that led CatalyticAction’s co-founders to implement this particular space for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, and aiming at understanding how architecture can respond to the challenges that vulnerable communities face, and how it could improve existing humanitarian practices. The article begins with a description of the Syrian refugee crisis and how it links to the concept behind the IBTASEM playground project, and then explores the participatory process that CatalyticAction used to implement the project and the design values including using local materials and local labors to promote the local economy. Lastly the article introduces other projects targeting refugee children CatalyticAction has carried out in recent years. After over 5 years of practice working with communities, CatalyticAction has proven that the play space has a massive role in improving the wellbeing of vulnerable populations and it should not be overlooked when planning for emergency response.