“Children design for living creatures, not for cars, egos, or corporations”
Younger people will spend far more time in our towns and cities than those currently in charge (because time). So what if children were more involved in designing cities?
Mara Mintzer has dedicated her career to working with children (people aged 0-18 years) to design cities.
In some recent research she’s been asking them what they want for their spaces, and what they like or don’t like about various public spaces.
Mintzer’s research has found that children want more access to nature and often included other animals in their designs –which is notable as extending one’s circle of empathy is acknowledged as a hallmark of advancing civilisation. Typically, children consider more groups of people than adults do: for example, younger children in this research explicitly considered teens and elderly people.
Children often have ideas for designs and design concepts in general that are better for the whole community. A great example is young people (less likely to drive places) invariably calling strongly for better public transport – which benefits everyone (including those who like to drive). Other examples are that kids invariably include play and movement in their designs – things which tend not to be prioritised by adults, yet adults benefit hugely from play and from being active. Kids don’t like repetitive, boring, beige tower blocks and instead suggest bright and colourful housing – something valued highly by adults but typically excluded from the places we live.
Designers can act as a bridge between young people’s inspiration and unfettered imaginations, and a buildable reality. For example, in Mintzer’s research kids (correctly) thought teenagers would want more extreme and thrill-seeking activities – and suggested things like hang-gliding. The designers interpreted this for a real city as flying foxes and tall climbing towers – things that are wholly buildable, are great place-making assets, and are easily incorporated into public space (check out our Central Park).
There are many more examples of considerations in city design and function that kids tend to take into account while adults don’t.
Have a watch of Mintzer’s TED talk. What do you think about including children and teens more in city design?
And what other innovations might we be missing by not talking to or hearing less from other particular communities or groups of people?