Play-full and Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of Play in the Netherlands

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Play-full and Playful Cities:

The Infrastructure of Play in the Netherlands

The City of Play:

urban innovation...

Report prepared by The City of Play


Part Funded by the

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

About The City of Play was founded with the ambition to make cities playful and more child friendly; delivering the social, health and economic benefits of play, through design. Our vision is to enrich communities/cities through play, using a triad of innovative design, play intelligence and collaborative practice. This may seem a fanciful notion; however Play is a vital component in the healthy development of our cities and culture. Play is proven to reduce stress, improve mental and physical health, aid learning, foster community spirit, increase social and economic value, reduce antisocial behaviour and crime, and promote creativity and innovation. It is a biological, psychological and social necessity. Despite the increased profile of ‘play’ in recent years, and its developmental benefits to children, generally Urban Design and Planning doesn’t recognise it’s responsibility to uphold the rights of the child. Or rather, it could be doing more/better to invite children out to play and change parent’s perceptions of the places in which we live. Our intention is to explore a new layer of urban design; to conceptualise a ‘transformative urban play infrastructure’ with a view to halting the decline in free play in our cities, increasing social capital, reducing health problems and the economic strain this causes, and gift children the opportunities to develop the skills to boost their education and fulfil their potential. Seeking to learn more about ‘child-friendly cities’ and to examine case studies of ‘play infrastructure’ we continued our studies in the cities of Amsterdam and Delft in the Netherlands, to experience their famous ‘Woonerven’, cycling infrastructure and play spaces. This project has been jointly initiated and funded by the British Council’s ELEVATE Startwell™ Challenge and The City of Play ltd. Our bicycle tours of Amsterdam and Delft were customised and led by Meredith Glaser of ‘Copenhaganize’ and Shelley Bontje of ‘Mobycon’, respectively.


Special thanks to Prof. John H Mckendrick for his assistance in writing this document.

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Introduction 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 playFULL and playful. ‘PlayFULL’ in the sense that it provides an array of opportunities and opportunities for all, and ‘playful’ in the sense that our 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 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. This study 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”

“ The city must be at once Play-full and Playful Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd




In the 1970’s, Delft was the birthplace of the ‘Woonerven’; streets - now described as home zones, in the UK - where pedestrians can take priority over motorised traffic; public spaces that can be adopted by the residents of the street restricting, if not blocking, traffic allowing kids to play. In creating a shared space that maximizes the safety and comfort of human use, the woonerf was a novel and effective way to activate and reclaim vital public space. The success of these spaces meant that they became common place across the country - forming a part of a widespread, yet dense, network of cycle-able and walk-able routes - and setting an example internationally of sustainable ‘human scale’ design.

The worlds first Woonerven, Delft

Holland - particularly Amsterdam – is also famed for it’s play areas. Before the appearance of the first Woonerf, architect, Aldo van Eyck had designed hundreds of playgrounds in a spatial experiment that positively marked the childhood of an entire generation and, through his legacy, generations there after. Of his 736 playgrounds 90 still exist however the city still has a large play presence and some impressive playgrounds such as ‘Carve’s ‘Potgeiterstraat’ which draws influence from Eyck and the Woonerf - something that we had to experience for ourselves. Our ‘Mobycon’ tour guide in Delft explained that through their Social Democratic Welfare State model, residents pay an increased rate of tax but benefit through a greater quality of life as sensible investments are made in such things as their impressive cycle network and the quality and quantity of their public space and play areas, particularly in Low Income Neighbourhoods. In fact, the Dutch spend £24 per person per year on cycling, while in the UK the figure invested outside London is just £1.39 per person. This figure is easily justified with a total of 27% of all journeys being made by bike in the Netherlands - 60% in Amsterdam centre - whereas in the UK that figures sits at just 2%. (Sky News, Mar 2016)

Large Investments in Low Income Neighbourhoods include exceptional play areas. Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Prior to our trip we may have considered cycle infrastructure and play infrastructure to be exclusive but as our Amsterdam tour guide, urban planner, cycle enthusiast and new mother, Meredith Glaser said ‘a truly cycle friendly city is also a child friendly city.’ For, it was with the intention of making a child friendly city that the cycle movement and concept of Woonerven emerged.

“ A truly Cycle Friendly City is also a Child Friendly City Immediately after the Second World War, Dutch cities were in a state of dereliction, housing was short in quantity and quality, the infrastructure was outdated and they would soon be confronted with the inevitable postwar baby boom. Around this time there was almost no space for children, neither inside nor outside the house. Some playgrounds existed in the city, but almost all of them were private and restricted to the membership of the fortunate few. Postwar urban planning in the Netherlands mainly consisted of a rushed and economised implementation of the prewar ‘Functionalist City’ ideals - meaning that housing, work, traffic and recreation were to be functionally separated and integrally planned. This was the basic premise of the large-scale construction of new postwar neighbourhoods. However this required and prompted a huge influx in motorised traffic. From 1950 to 1975, the bicycle was almost entirely excluded from the government’s vision. The number of deaths on the roads erupted, especially amongst children on their way to and from school. In 1972, a total of 3,264 people were killed on Dutch roads, and in 1973, 450 road deaths were of children. In 1973 rose the ‘Stop de Kindermoord’ (“Stop the child murder”) Protest Movement. The object of this group was to point out the number of deaths caused to children and to campaign to reduce them. They successfully lobbyed the Dutch government and saw to the regeneration of a safe cycle, pedestrian and child friendly city.

Campaigners stage a die-in outside the Rijksmuseum, mid-1970s

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

While the dutch people campaigned for safer streets, Aldo Van Eyck was making them playable; rebelling against the Functionalist ideals in his approach stitching play into the urban fabric. Literally filling ‘in-between’ existing buildings and infrastructure, utilising bombed sites, empty plazas, unused medians, parks and courtyards - literally to create space for the imagination. “Functionalism has killed creativity… it leads to a cold technocracy, in which the human aspect is forgotten. A building is more than just the sum of its functions; architecture has to facilitate human activity and promote social interaction.” - Van Eyck in an article for Dutch magazine ‘Forum.’

The design of the playgrounds was aimed at social interaction but also interaction with the surrounding urban tissue. In collaboration with the neighbourhoods, Aldo drew up the programme for the playgrounds and decided where they would be built. Because the intention was to give every neighbourhood its own playground, they often turned vacant spaces in the city centre into temporary play areas. The temporary nature of the intervention was part of this ‘in between’ nature, recreating space through incremental adaptation instead of the tabula rasa approach of modernism. Aldo’s designs occupied unorthodox locations such as space reclaimed from roads and sites vacated by demolished buildings but were executed in such a way as to afford children’s activity but without disruption to other city movement.

Before and after: Van Boetzelaerstraat, AmsterdamOudwest, 1961, 1964

Existing Eyck Apparatus being used by a personal trainer and client.

“The city must be able to absorb it both aesthetically and physically; it must become part of the city’s every day fabric” -Aldo Van Eyck, Playgrounds and the City

Aldo, for example, refused to resort to hybrid animal like forms because it did not belong to the language of the city. His 736 playgrounds gave due recognition to children as inhabitants of the city yet they were not the exclusive property of children. The idea being, that when the children went home that the space did not lose its meaning and look like “an abandoned amusement park”. His playgrounds also had recognisable functions for adults, as a point of rest or encounter, or even to hang out the washing. These weren’t merely “childrens playgrounds” but inclusive multifunctional spaces and fortunately it would seem that that ethos has endured.

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

The Cycle Friendly City

and the

Child Friendly City

Significant time and money has been invested to make cycling easier and reduce the citizens reliance on cars. Around 27% of all trips in the Netherlands are taken by bike, where the average person cycles 2.9km daily. Safe, continuous and convenient bike routes are used by all kinds of people for everyday journeys, begging the question: Is the Cycle Friendly City really a Child Friendly City, also?

The Cycle



The country is perfectly adapted to suit the cyclist. Shared roads - that either prioritise cyclists or provide dedicated cycle lanes – as well as separate bicycle roads cross the whole country. They have junctions, with sign posts, where you only give way to other cyclists and occasionally pedestrians. When a bike road meets a car road there are dedicated bike crossing points, where the car must give way to bikes. There are also time saving short cuts across waterways or between buildings that are only afforded to cyclists and pedestrians. Prioritising cyclists and pedestrians makes the city seem smaller, making it more of a human scale, allowing people to travel further in shorter timescales, in safety and pleasant surroundings. Combining this with excellent public transport provides viable alternatives to the use of vehicles within the city. It is telling, that despite hundreds of thousands of bike racks, it is more difficult to park your bike than it is your car in the city centre.

Bicycle only bridges enhance the city’s permeability for cyclists & Pedestrians

The Delflandplein roundabout (below) is especially unique example of cycle - and public transport priority, in that motorist must give way to cyclist and trams cutting through the centre of the roundabout. Two way cycle routes can be identified by the distinctive red colour. Drivers wait for passing cyclist as they both enter and exit the roundabout. Credit must also be given for the abundance of greenery.

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

An important factor contributing towards the safety enjoyed by Dutch cyclists, is the country’s strict liability laws – in a collision between a faster, larger vehicle and a slower, more vulnerable one, the former is found liable by default, unless its driver can prove otherwise. Those on foot are protected from cyclists and both are protected from motor vehicles. Motorists are genuinely respectful of cyclists because a) The Law obliges them to b) The Infrastructure allows them to flow harmoniously, if not, independantly, and c) They are likely cyclists themselves. Cycling here is so widespread; it is more than a popular past time of a few, it is more than a ‘subculture’ it is the culture and everyday reality of the whole country. This means cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afforded a unique privilege in being able to explore and appreciate their city in relative safety. Independantly making everyday journeys to and from school, venturing out with friends, or visiting the many parks and playgrounds. Here, children learn from a young age how to cycle in and around the city. Firstly, by travelling on their parents’ bikes, then progressing to cycling alongside them, and eventually travelling by themselves. They learn how to operate and control a bicycle as well as anticipate and navigate traffic. They develop a better understanding and appreciation of their local area. They are more competent and, importantly, they are given credit for their competency in that their parents afford them their freedom. There are little worries of ‘What if?’ - “What if they can’t cross that road?, What if they get lost? What if someone is driving too fast and they get run over?” - The considered design of our environment prompts certain behaviours and certain thinking. Supported by policy and law, several factors combine to reduce both the real and perceived threats to children in the city. Further, while it is legal for cyclists to cycle two abreast in the UK (rule 66, The Highway Code), it’s really kind of a nuisance, whereas here two abreast or in groups is accepted in practice. Meaning cycling moves from purely being scheduled exercise or a mode of transport to the vehicle of social interaction. The casual cycle with friends or family is not the preserve of a trip to the countryside but an everyday possibility. Meridith Glaser, adds that this cycling culture can be said to ‘Gamify’ the city: a daily game of navigation, of negotiation with other cyclists and road users, and social interaction on varying levels. Whether this interaction be fleeting eye contact, just observing and hearing ‘strangers’, or incidental encounters with friends it is all very appealing...and extremely unlikely if you were to favour travelling by car, where you ‘skip’ the experience of the city.


Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

The Child Friendly City A child friendly city, in the context of life between buildings, is one that encourages active and passive engagement with the built environment, local culture, community and heritage. The physical design of a city dictates this in it’s affordance of children’s innate desire to play, explore and discover. When you consider this, you might say that it comes down to ‘motivations’ and ‘deterrants’. The ‘pros and ‘cons’ or going out to play, if you like. In some cases, motivation is easy to acheive because “play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated” however the problem arises when the inconvenience outweights the appeal. In this case many would settle for an arbritrary alternative within the domestic realm. However, the infrastructures for cycling make opportunities for play more accessible and convenient, tipping this balance in favour of the more rewarding public realm. Therefore, greater credit needs to be given to the role of walking and cycling, both as a means to improve their access to play opportunities and as forms of play experience in their own right.


M. Kyttä | framework In spite of mobility issues the environment appears a rich source of affordances. The awareness of such can be based on second hand info

CHILD FRIENDLY independent movement reveal many affordances. The actualization of affordances motivates further exploration and mobility in the environment

Due to mobility issues children cant find affordances. The ignorance of affordances seems to decrease motivation to move around and explore the environment

Possibilities for independent mobility only reveal the dullness of the environment

INDEPENDANT MOBILITY Adapted from Marketta Kyttä’s conceptual framework of child-friendliness

Finnish Academic, Marketta Kyttä, perhaps demonstrates this better in her ‘Conceptual Framework for Child-Friendliness’. It is based on Gibson’s work on affordances and on the role of children’s independent mobility in actualising affordances. It characterises child-friendliness in terms of (i) the experiences on offer in a neighbourhood and (ii) children’s ability to access those experiences. Meaning, the more affordances we make for play and the more children’s independent movement or access to those affordances is supported the more childfriendly the city is deemed be. The ChildFriendly city is much more than the sum of it’s ‘playgrounds’. A play space can be identified as a place with a variety of natural and manmade items, with different structures, textures and smells to be explored so it is easily arguable that most public spaces can be defined as such.

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Children respond both objectively and subjectively to their environment; if you look close there are affordances for play everywhere. However, our experience of the Netherlands and particularly Amsterdam is that there is a vast and diverse array of deliberate provisions for play. When you combine this with the accessibility, safety and playability afforded to all by their comprehensive cycling infrastructure and policies, you realise that the Netherlands is indeed Play-Full and Playful. There is a ‘synergy’ in the Netherlands that children and young people, in particular, benefit from; The transport infrastructure, policies, cultural attitude, the quality, quantity and diversity of play spaces, all in tune to make the country child and play friendly. This much is clearly evident: Children can be seen and heard in all types of shared public space the hallmark of a vibrant community - walking, cycling, running, playing, socialising and discovering alongside adults, doing that exact same thing. Play is not exclusive to the playground nor children contributing greatly to the health, creativity and satisfaction of the dutch people.

“ The netherlands is indeed Play-full and Playful

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Amsterdam’s Playground Typology:

a network of play

Our ethos revolves around the concept of ‘Places of Play’; the recognition that free-wheeling and un-endingly diverse and that concentrating play activity in limited and designated places, with a limited set of affordances is detrimental to say the very least; that any public space can be a legitimate play ‘of’ play if not necessarily ‘for’ play. Indeed, many academics and play advocates have attempted to ‘stigmatise’ the typical playgrounds that dominate play provision in the UK. Amsterdam, however, boasts a huge variety of playgrounds and playful spaces, and this study aimed to explore these and perhaps define a ‘playground typology’ to better and sutainably integrate play within the city, in a variety of contexts, particularly where space is at a premium The study found that there does not appear to be a ‘one size fits all’ model; that each of these ‘Place’s of Play’ fit carefully within their context and many are uniquely designed. Here, Play seems valued, and integrated within the city design as opposed to being an appendage. It is assumed that this approach began with ethos of Aldo van Eyck who believed in the ‘interstitial and in-between’ approach, weaving human scale spaces and playgrounds into the urban fabric, and that of multi-functionality and inclusivity. His playgrounds were intended to serve the whole community postulating that when the children had gone home they became just another public space, open to appropriation by adults and other forms of activity within the city too. Of the 736 only 90 of his interventions still exist - as they were only ever envisaged stop-gap - however that abundance of play is still present within the city, and so too, is the adjoining of adults needs that programmed either in or around the hub of children’s activity. Many of the playgrounds and playable spaces visited were planned adjacent to homes, cafés, convenience stores, schools, community centres and green spaces and/or included provisions for seating and refreshment and outdoor gym equipment. The obvious benefits of this are two-fold; play becomes convenient for carers and therefore more regularly accessible for children; and parents can occupy themselves in other activities and easily adopt the mantra of Tom Hodgkinson’s ‘Idle Parent’ whereby children are free to dictate their own play without oppression or direction. This loose commonality is intergral to their success, yet is not so defined as to inhibit the diversity and contexts of play. We recognise that this may not be a comprehensive list and that there may be some overlap, however this study has explored Amsterdam’s ‘play network’ to define 8 types of play space: The Corner Infill, Play Street, Off Street, Micro, Private, Multi-Functional, Nature and the Public-comeSchool ground

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Corner Infill Playground Traditionally, in the city’s dense, residential blocks the corner properties contained amenities to service the neighbourhood such as shops or workshops. Although many of them have now been converted into homes, the tradition lives on in the provision of playgrounds for the youngest residents. The corner infill playground often occupies a vacant building plot and can abut neighbouring houses – in some cases with doors opening into the playground - and is immediately adjacent to the road. We usually observed 3 to 4 pieces of traditional play equipment aimed at pre-school children offering opportunities to play right on their doorstep. Perimeter fencing and reduced speed limits in the adjoining streets offer age appropriate protection.

Play Street

*HondecoeterStraat The Play Street or ‘Speel Straat’ is as it sounds: a street closed off to traffic, providing a dedicated place to play. The play space occupies the full width of the street, excluding cars, with no segregation from the neighbouring properties. Again with front doors opening into the playground. Residents may have opportunities for parking nearby, but it is likely that do not have a car and instead travel by bicycle. We observed a mix of off the shelf and custom play equipment aimed at preschool and school age children, and street furniture for community integration. We did not observe any continuous fencing but road barriers to prevent the entry of motorised vehicles. Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Off Street Play


City centre woonerF and * Off-Street Play Off Street offers street play but doesn’t exclude cars. The playground will occupy a part of the street and may utilise a barrier and jut out, to narrow and create a chicane in the road. These may also be located adjacent to the road occupying a wider pavement. They are not located next to main highways, but residential streets and woonerven, and in particular can be found at entrances to inner city schools. We observed a mixture of off the shelf and custom play equipment aimed at children of pre-school to school age. The presence of barriers seems to be dependent on the age range the play equipment is suitable for. Again, there is no segregation from neighbouring property - and doors open onto play space. There is usually provision for both adults and children.

Off-Street Playground, Delft. Close by and overlooked by homes, doesn’t require excessive space due to minimum distances from roads. Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Micro Playground The Micro ‘playground’ is identified as a deliberate single inclusion prompting play. Although we did notice some of these near schools they don’t necessarily seem to be associated with any particular context. Common are hopscotch paving slabs in the pavement, and Aldo van Eyck’s concrete stepping stone/ seating pillars or replica pillars. You might also find art works dedicated to children or that can be directly ‘played’ with.

Playful Artworks, Amsterdam

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

“Private” Playground The “Private” playground is usually a secure facility with high fences and a lockable gate along with some form of supporting facility – there is some variation in this. A formal playground usually occupied by community hall or nursery building. These are larger than the other typologies so far and offer a much greater range of play experiences, incorporating off shelf and custom equipment, sand and water play and some sports facility. These can be, but are not all, membership only where access is limited and the playground is funded and maintained by the local group. Some are managed by a local community organisation but not limited by membership. While others can be occupied by a nursery or sessional play facility who will also make use of the playground. In some cases, these service several local schools at break times. We might also consider, within this category, playgrounds as part of restaurant or beer garden as these are segregated and offer separate facility to distract adults while kids play. The commonality is that they are all secure, observed and cater for needs beyond that of the children. Where space is particularly at a premium these playgrounds can occupy a backcourt space where they are secured and can be passively monitored by neighbouring residents.

Gated Playground with Nursery Premises, Amsterdam Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Multifunctional Space The multifunctional space, is the best representation of a ‘place of play’ – because a playground is a ‘place of play’ but a ‘place of play’ is not a playground. These are nondesignated playable spaces that cater for all. They not only allow play but promote it without it being the primary function of the space. Amstelveld is a prime example of what the Play-full and Playful City should represent. It is a beautiful hard surfaced civic square used to host various markets and events but it also has a permanent set of football goal posts and pitch defined by changes in the paving. Around its edge are places for playing boules, a play fountain and water rill, sand pit, a slide and climbing frame - so we have designated areas of play, for varying ages, within a wider area of multiple use. This space is also accompanied by an alfresco dining area or beer garden for the ‘idle parent’. This is a space where several functions of the city are integrated, creating an inclusive, dynamic space, allowing for incidental and organised use all year around.

Amstelveld Square/ Football Pitch, Amsterdam Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Public / School Playground Another variation of this multi-functional space is the public-come-school playgrounds. There is a theme running through these typologies that space is at a premium. This public / school playground ‘kills two birds with one stone’ in that the city centre schools rarely, if at all, have their own private playground. The playground is publicly accessible , or rather it seems more likely that the schools appropriate the local public playground – in some cases sharing with other schools. Thereby saving resources and offering a better quality play experience. Again, this is an example clever programming of amenities and public play areas; saving space; ensuring they are well used both during and outside of school hours; and generating interactions between parents and carers of the pupils. During recess times, younger children are monitored by a small group of staff but are allowed to play freely. The design of the playgrounds/ public spaces also seems to respond to the age range of the adjacent schools with age appropriate equipment and sports provisions.

Schoolmates appearingly running free in a central Amsterdam public park, utilised by the local school during recess. Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Nature Play | Water Play Nature play areas can be characterised as; consisting primarily, if not solely, of natural materials; having manipulatable features such as loose parts for autonomous, creative play; and having an element of risk benefit. The nature playground is probably the most famous European play export in recent years so it might not be a surprise that you can find both formal and informal nature play settings in and around the City. However, being that this study is specific to the Netherlands the focus is primarily on what is unique about this region: the abundance of water The Netherlands has a unique geography, in that much of it lies below sea level. The country utilises a complicated system of canals, swales, drainage ditches and pumping station to prevent flooding and keep the land dry. Most of these waterways are visible, open and accessible. So, it is perhaps unsurprising that water is often a prominent feature of play settings.

Canals and ponds are openly accesible (no barriers) in neighbourhoods where children play, near homes and schools. Playgrounds are located on the banks of small lakes or ponds. Nature playgrounds are built on the waterways of a redudant peat farm. Children also enjoyplaying IN the less natural ‘splash pools’, such as the one in the Vondelpark. They have fully embraced their vast water management infrastructure as a valuable source of fun and learning. One would imagine that it is also very beneficial for dutch children to learn about water managment at a young age.

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands Š The City of Play ltd

Case Studies Poptahof, Delft The Popta Garden, Delft, is an exceptional example of social investment and equitable development. Poptahof was a a typical 1960’s, densely populated, extremely low income neighbourhood consisting of several high rise blocks, housing a mostly transitory immagrant population of around 2800. The type of area that would typically be characterised by low quality of life and social inequality but not here, not now. A new Green-Blue space is the crown jewell in a regeneration strategy that aimed to make the neighbourhood a pleasant place to live, work and generally spend time in. Here, good planning, design, green infrastructure and community development intertwine. Popta Garden is a beautiful inclusive, multifunctional central park land, that offers a variety of activities for all, utilises greenery and water to promote health and happiness, and groups vital public ammenities meaning that is consitently well used and of benefit to the community.

1. Adults Outdoor Gym 2. Multi Use Games Area 3. Primary School & ‘PlayBox’ 4. Den/ Set Building Primary Structure 5. Sand & Water Play Equipment & ‘River’ 6. Sandbox & Table Tennis Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

It is a green armature polarised by the modern Brede junior school at one end, and local retail and public transport links at the other. The school benefits from a hard landscaped place space - containing ample bicycle security, sand play, outdoor table tennis, and a secure ‘Playbox’ for dispensing further play resources - juxtaposing the greenspace and ‘natural’ play area. Here, there is ample free play space, and constructs supporting autonomous, creative play such as sand and water play including an impressive water rill/ canal allowing the child to divert and dam the water flow. There are also a variety of swings and a series of poles acting as the primary structure for building dens, and sets for community events.

Residents can give themselves a full body workout with the good range of formal excercise equipment, located within adequate proximity of the playground to monitor playing children without interferance or oppression. A Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) sits on the periphery of the main greenbelt, giving space to older children and teens seperate from the early years play. Clever design also incorporates seating within the perimeter fence of the court/feild. A new community vegetable garden completes what is a holistic public health project. Misuse and vandalism has been prevented by good and participative design.The windows of new blocks face onto the park, creating greater value in those homes and passive observation of the space and it’s facilties. While the design of the new play spaces were realised with the participation of local children and residents, fostering a sense of ownership and duty of care for the project.

Popta Garden Green - Blue Space overlooked by new housing development. Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Woeste Westen, Amsterdam Woeste Westen is an exceptional natural ‘playscape’ a short bike journey west of Amsterdam City Centre. Natural playgrounds are not uncommon in the country however this is one of the few that has the psychical presence of an organisation to support it. The site was once harvested for peat leaving a series of manmade waterways which have been bridged, dammed, pumped and sailed. That is, there is a manual water pump and a raft.

There are also any number or den building, climbing and balancing opportunities; bonfire sites; and animal habitats both natural and man made... /child made. This amazing natural playscape is supported by the weekly run Adventure Club and onsite clubhouse/ parents cafe. This place is a truly inclusive landscape offering challenges and opportunities for all ages and abilities. A series of crossing points present different challenges to span the water with varying degrees of difficulty. Rope bridges, felled trees, wobbly bridges, rafts, stepping stones and shallows ensure that the body and mind are continually tested without being forced to encounter unmanageable risks. This is a land and water-scape to invite and excite all.

Fire, Water and Grass - not pokemon types, a playground! Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

The abundance of water and wildlife not only provides play value but is a soothing and calming influence. Although chaotic, Woeste Westen is peaceful and pleasant in a manner rarely achieved through other designed “Nature” playgrounds. Despite the rain the Adventure Club are out, dressed in waterproofs, building fires and making popcorn showing that this is an all weather experience.

“ it's not "Safe" it's about risky play Woeste Westen founder Martin Hup is a former biology and environmental education teacher. Martin discovered this publicly owned piece of land in 2009, not much different from what it is now, a playground with the raft and bridges, but rarely used. Although only a few minutes from the bustling city it was still in the middle of nowhere; children/families had no need to pass by and therefore it was not used. Martin - as a self confessed adventurer, former Boy Scout and expert in environmental education but with no vision of continuing to be a teacher - saw an opportunity to exploit an underused resource to promote environmental education and facilitate outdoor play. He sought funding from the local government to install a hub with a cafe, toilets and office, to create a perimeter fence and to form the Adventure Club. He says ‘This lets parents feel it is safe, they know there is usually someone here and it has a secure gate of course it is not “safe” it is about risky play! - but the perception is different.’ Still he insists he is not a play worker, he/they programme events and are ‘facilitators’. The playground, although now fenced, is still public property but without their presence - running the Adventure Club and serving “fine coffee” - no one would use it. Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Martin knows his stuff, and he knows that even with Amsterdam’s abundance of playgrounds that free play is on the decline and that parents are to blame. ‘They are scared of cars and the “dangerous man” that wants to harm their children. In fact, there is no more danger than in the 70’s.’ Concerned, if not dismayed, by reports of schools in the Netherlands removing skipping ropes and balls from pupils due to parent complaints of injury, Martin and the Adventure Club warn that they actively seek risks in their sessions. Many new parents and even children visiting the park show the same nerves we commonly see in our risk averse time; many concerned by how often their child might climb a tree - God forbid they should get a scratch or a bruise! In Woeste Westen you may well break a leg... But *shrugs* “so what?”. Although it might surprise you to learn that with 57,000 visits per year they still haven’t had any serious injuries. Martin describes that when children visit, despite initial reservations, they are somewhat set free. They can run and explore and experience the joy of discovering nature for themselves but also they experience a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi ‘ - in a rare moment of broken English described as like “touching their inner Neanderthal” they are wild again.

Woeste Westen Water Play Het Woeste Westen Overbrakerpad 3 1014 AZ Amsterdam

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

Our Mission: Campaigning Affording Children’s Freedom



Child-Friendly Cities




Modern day urban environments are increasingly structured to meet the demands of our ever-busy adult lives. This may provide us some benefits in terms of improved private transport links, and services that are increasingly available to us and when we want them. However, the effect this is having on our mental and physical well-being is increasingly worrying. Paramount to this, is the declining independent freedom of children, and environments that increasingly encourage them to stay indoors, and rely on the help of adults to achieve their own leisure and play activities. For the majority of us, childhood was a time of innocence, playfulness, and reckless abandon, with playing outside the norm. This arguably provided us with the resilience to manage our encounters with the poorly designed urban environments we see today, but what about the current and next generations of children? How does growing up with a largely indoor, supervised, and pressured childhood affect the mental and physical health of our people? At The City of Play, we realise that our current environments are not meeting the rights of children. We COULD continue to plan with the busy adult in mind, and in the process increase our reliance on motor vehicles; reduce our access to green and natural space; and design according to function rather than the human experience. However, we can and we should change our focus to see children as both the present and future of our environments: taking into account their playful needs, and prioritising their ability to navigate and connect with their environments independent of adult intervention. This approach will provide great societal and economic benefits for all. As the esteemed Enrique Peñalosa (Mayor of Bogota, Colombia) contends: “Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people” Children have an inherent human right to participate in and enjoy their environments (UNCRC). This need not be an arduous process, but simply requires us to look again at our urban environment and think: ‘What does this do for, and say about our children?’ We propose that all cities commit to becoming child friendly under UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities initiative. Our credentials in architecture, planning, research, and community engagement make us ideal partners in guiding communities towards the rights and needs of children. We therefore offer our services to help make this happen. We hope that you will join with us in promoting the child friendly city approach

©The City of Play Ltd 2017 180 Queen Margaret Drive, Glasgow, G20 8NX

The City of Play:

urban innovation by design.

Play-Full & Playful Cities: The Infrastructure of play in the Netherlands © The City of Play ltd

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