Child-inspired design of new Urban 95 playgrounds in refugee shelters

The Bernard van Leer Foundation has opened three new playspaces that are incorporated within child and family-focused refugee shelters in the Brazilian city of Boa Vista.

It’s the latest scheme to be realised under the foundation’s successful Urban 95 programme, which is aimed at helping ensuring city planners see their working environment through the eyes of a child.

These new early childhood-focused public spaces are in the capital of Brazil’s most northerly state, and which is seeing an influx of migrants from Venezuela, currently the world’s second-largest source of cross-border displacement.

The playgrounds are part of Scale-Up Urban95 Boa Vista, a partnership between the Bernard van Leer Foundation, AVSI Foundation and the Municipality of Boa Vista, implemented by AVSI Brasil. The precise locations were chosen based on the number of migrant and refugee families with children.

Before the playgrounds were designed, project leaders went out and actively asked young migrant children in the shelters about how they like to play. The municipality’s infrastructure team designed the playgrounds to support young children’s cognitive and motor development, with rainbow-coloured visuals, structures such as obstacles, pyramids and tunnels, and different textures including sand, concrete and vinyl surfaces to add sensory dimensions.

‘Asked young migrant children how they like to play’

The shelters incorporate recycled materials where possible, such as wood, tyres and PVC pipes, and there are also areas for playing sport. Each one was designed with the support of the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR), and therefore reflect the temporary nature of the shelters.

Boa Vista is just one of those cities with which the foundation has been working closely for years, partnering with architects, engineers, designers, urban planners, to ensure a consistent and firm focus on incorporating the needs of young people into city planning processes.

Its partnership with the Boa Vista includes support services to help migrant families integrate into their new home city, including risk analysis and referrals, data management, mobility solutions, improving public spaces, awareness raising, and municipal planning.

Click here to read more about the Foundation’s partnership with Boa Vista, and the city’s challenges with migration from Venezuela, in former mayor Teresa Surita’s article for last year’s edition of the foundation’s Early Childhood Matters publication.


Author: Simon Weedy

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