Lima is transforming public spaces for children and caregivers

Photo: mothers and children playing in the transformed space in Via El Salvador - Cerro Papa. Courtesy of Reinier van Oorsouw/Bernard van Leer Foundation.

Lima, the capital of Peru, has worked with the Bernard van Leer Foundation to transform 12 run-down spaces into attractive, child-friendly spaces for places for caregivers to spend with their youngsters.

It’s yet another success story for the foundation’s Foundation’s Urban95 programme, which is making a real difference in cities across the world, and scooped awards for good practice in public management and urban walkability.

And while the Foundation says it is gradually ‘phasing out of Peru’, the city itself has committed to continuing the initiatives set in motion, with the intention of transforming a further 40 public spaces by the middle of next year.

The latest project forms part of Limeños al Bicentenario, which celebrates 200 years of the country’s independence. Work originally started late in 2019, just before COVID took hold, and yet, with social distancing measures in place, the work was able to be completed, creating access to open space without having to travel on public transport.

What makes this Urban95 project so special is that the methods employed are low cost, making use of recycled materials and engage community members as volunteers. It promotes ‘walkability’ to essential services, and contact with nature and social cohesion, by bringing families together.

At one of the spaces, Pasaje Paiva, some people initially voiced scepticism about the concept of a ‘space for babies’, simply because they said no babies were living in the neighbourhood. But, after digging a little deeper, it was found that such attitudes were voiced largely because caregivers did not feel 100% safe spending time in public spaces with their babies. The project sought to alleviate such fears and, when complete, babies and caregivers were suddenly visible again in public. This, says the Foundation, was a reminder of a key philsophy that the presence of babies is a good indicator of the perceived safety of the public realm.

Mother playing with her baby in the transformed space in Pasaje Paiva. Courtesy of Reinier van Oorsouw/Bernard van Leer Foundation.

Certain elements of the various projects are shared across all, including street art, the planting of native trees and vegetation which gives toddlers access to nature, and urban furniture made from sustainable resources which toddlers, naturally, can climb on and explore.

Most of the 12 spaces transformed so far are in Lima Cercado, the central part of the city: Jardin Rosa de Santa Maria (former Huerta Perdida); Jr Tajacaya, Monserrate; Pasaje Paiva; Santo Cristo, Barrios Altos; Parque de la Medicina; Camana; Monserrate; Zubiaga; and Palomino. In the district of Villa El Salvador, two locations have been worked on – Lomo de Corvina and Cerro Papa – and one in Surquillo district, Pasaje San Lorenzo y San Carlos.

Source: Bernard van Leer Foundation

Author: Simon Weedy

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