Weekly Reading: Creating Kid-Friendly Cities

Beacon Mountain at Jefferson Park There has been a lot of discussion, both in Seattle and nationally, about how we can make cities that are great for kids. At a breakfast in downtown Seattle earlier this week, Kate Joncas of the Downtown Seattle Association made the argument that "if downtown doesn't work for a two-year-old, it doesn't work for anyone." Her thinking falls right in line with urbanist luminaries like Gil Penalosa and Brent Toderian, who have both compellingly argued for more kids, seniors and families in our urban cores.

But what does it take to make cities more kid friendly?

There are some obvious social infrastructure needs, like great schools, that need to be in place to make downtowns more family friendly. And research is showing that once those schools are in place, the density of urban environments may actually help kids succeed as a fantastic article in Atlantic Cities noted this week. But the other critical component seems to be the need to integrate play into the urban environment.

For kids, play is a critical component to their physical and psychological development. And for parents, places where kids play can be an important social space for sharing and creating community. (That, in fact, was one of our goals at Beacon Mountain (shown above), which Seattle Magazine recently recognized as one of the Best Kids' Activities).

Play is coming under closer academic scrutiny as well. Over at Slate, Nicholas Day uses David Rockwell's Imagination Playground to explore the concept of loose parts as the best way to promote play. But the Slate article is but the tip of the iceberg compared to the in-depth videos from the Museum of Modern Art's recent symposium, The Child in the City of Play, which Arcady gives a run-down of on the Playscapes blog. The videos are a fantastic primer on both how childhood play can integrate into the life of the City, but what really excited us as designers was the explorations of the visual and aesthetic demands of play environments, including Adrian Gueze from West 8 discussing the compromises between play and safety that he was forced to make at London's Jubilee Gardens.

If you're interested in learning more about kids in cities, check out the AIA's Ingredients for a Family-Friendly Downtown event, coming up on April 11th at City Hall.

Finally, a follow up on something we mentioned a few weeks ago: the EIS scoping for the Cherry Point coal terminal received 124,000 comment letters.

Now for a bit of fun. Kaid Benfield brings Diana Lind's brilliant riff on the "God Made a Farmer" ad to our attention: God Made Transit.