Introducing the winners of the Real Play City Challenge 2022

Holland Park Playground, London, by Erect Architecture

A host of diverse child-friendly projects have been unveiled as this year’s winners of a global competition dedicated to ‘reclaiming places to play in cities’.

The Real Play City Challenge was launched in 2020 by the Real Play Coalition, and brings together retailer IKEA, children’s charity UNICEF, The LEGO Foundation, National Geographic magazine, architectural firm Arup and public space-creation champions, PlacemakingX.

Together, they form a strong coalition of advocates who accelerate ways and strategies for creating healthy and inclusive communities, and who above all celebrate inspiring uses of play to tackle global challenges. There is a focus on three key themes:

  • Places where play heals people
  • Places where play supports climate action
  • Places where play unites us all.

A jury of various experts selected the winning cities and urban practitioners for creating places that give people time, space, and opportunities to play, to help their community tackle three global challenges – Climate change, inclusivity and conflict.

Winners of the ‘Places where play heals people’ category utilise play to help communities through issues of trauma and conflict, ‘Places where play supports climate action’, were recognised for enabling a community response to climate change, and winners of the ‘Places where play unites us all’ are addressing inequality through play.

‘These winners represent the future of urban design’

Jury and Real Play Coalition member, Dr Bo Stjerne Thomsen is also the Vice President of VP and Chair of Learning Through Play for The Lego Foundation, said: “These winners represent the future of urban design. Not only were they great ideas, but these six winners have made a tremendous effort to bring them to life into real play environments, discussing and testing whether they could be sustained and scaled. I am excited to see what they do next.”

One jury member well known to Child in the City readers is Tim Gill, a global advocate for children’s outdoor play and mobility. He said the Real Play City Challenge provided a ‘unique opportunity’ to give those in lower-income countries ‘a platform’.

“Some may think that the goal of creating more playful, child- and youth-friendly places and neighbourhoods is only relevant or meaningful to the global North,” said Gill. “However, as this year’s winning cohort all come from South America, Africa, and Asia, the RPCC shows how wrong that idea is. Congratulations to all.”

‘Unique opportunity to give those in lower-income countries a platform’

The winners, chosen by an esteemed panel of experts across urban planning, child psychology and play experts, will be able to develop and scale up their projects through accelerator workshops and training provided by RPC Members, networking opportunities to establish new partnerships to help advocate for the power of play, as well as visibility throughout the RPC’s network and channels.

The full list of winners is as follows:

Places where play heals people: 

  • Winning urban practitioner: Girl Awakening by Colours of Connection, Democratic Repulic of the Congo
  • Winning city: Pocket Parks as a Healer by Kohima Smart City Development, India 
  • Highly commended:
    • Baytna Hub by Athens Comic Library & We Are Community, Athens, Greece
    • Changing Faces Competition by Public Space Network, Nairobi, Kenya
    • No child left behind by White Helmets (well known as Syria Civil Defense), Idlib, Syria  

Places where play supports climate action:

  • Winning urban practitioner: Climate Smart Play Space by Holistic Actions for Development and Empowerment (HADE), Uganda
  • Winning city: Breath and Play Freely by Indore Smart City Development, India 
  • Highly commended:
    • A Playground That Comes Alive When It Rains, Erect Architecture, London, UK (see main photo)
    • Climate Ready Schools: The Irma Coulson Public School by Evergreen, Canada
    • Grey > Green = Gold by Space For Play, the Netherlands

Places where play supports climate action:

  • Winning urban practitioner:  Vivo Mi Calle by Despacio, Colombia
  • Winning city: Greater Warangal, Greater Warangal, Municipal Corporation, India 
  • Highly commended:
    • Basurama by Basurama, Madrid, Spain 
    • Play Friendly Slums by Rourkela Smart City, India.

Click here for more information on the winners.

Author: Simon Weedy

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