The ‘Ibtasem’ Playground – 5 steps to designing a successful child friendly space
Syrian children fleeing to neighbouring countries add up to more than half of the total refugees. Therefore, there is a need for designing playgrounds to facilitate these children’s developmental needs. The ‘Ibtasem’ playground is a pilot project, coordinated by the “Catalytic Action” NGO and that has been completely funded by an international crowd-funding campaign and constructed by teams of volunteers in collaboration with the final users of the space – the refugee children themselves.
This project manages to respond successfully to both a humanitarian design need and a user-based design project challenge. On the one hand, it aims to raise awareness for the essential need for child oriented spaces in refugee camps, while at the same time it poses questions about the adequacy of commonly used playground equipment such as the swing, the slide and the seesaw
The humanitarian need
“Within humanitarian responses, programmatically, children often become invisible” (Marc Sommers)
According to the latest UNHCR report (Dec2, 2015), Syrian children fleeing to neighbouring countries add up to more than half of the total refugees. This fact urges the design and construction of spatial contexts to appropriately facilitate these children’s developmental needs.
Registered Syrian Refugees (4,283,224)
This figure includes 2.1 million Syrians registered by UNHCR in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, 1.9 million Syrians registered by the Government of Turkey, as well as more than 26,700 Syrian refugees registered in North Africa. Regional demographic breakdown below is based on available data from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
|Male (49.7%)||Age||(50.3%) Female|
|0 – 4||
|5 – 11||
|12 – 17||
|18 – 59||
Source – UNHCR, Government of Turkey (Last Updated on Dec 2, 2015)
The ‘Catalytic Action’ team addressed this specific issue in the region of Békaa, Lebanon and decided to take action by initiating a community-based project, which was successfully completed in August 2015.
The ‘Ibtasem’ Playground
Since a playground is the ultimate space for outdoor play and recreation, the design of it should be tailored to children’s (user’s) particular needs. Therefore, engaging children in the design process is a brilliant way to capture their imagination and translate it into space and ambience. Creating a space that reflects their stories and ideas within the spatial environment demonstrates that children seek play elements that trigger their creativity; and that these are not necessarily the same play elements that are commonly and widely provided for by equipped playgrounds worldwide.
The ‘Catalytic Action’ team hosted participatory planning workshops where the children contributed their ideas to the final design of their playground; and also participated actively in the actual construction of the space. The final outcome of this process, The ‘Ibtasem’ Playground, provides a safe haven and a vibrant playscape to the refugee children where they can feel comfortable to express themselves, socialize and play.
5 steps to designing a successful Child Friendly Space
The success of this project lies in its thoughtful programming and coordination. There are five main steps identified in the process of developing this project:
1. Articulate clearly the goal, which the proposed design project aims to achieve.
2. Build partnerships with local authorities, local and international (project related) NGO’s, foundations and institutions in order to engage the local community.
3. Launch a crowd-funding campaign to raise awareness globally.
4. Organize and facilitate participatory Design–Build workshops in order to develop a design proposal that addresses adequately the final user’s needs.
5. Build the project together.
Author: Maria Sitzoglou
By CatalyticAction https://www.flickr.com/photos/132232379@N02/21758402512/in/photostream/