What does a child-friendly city look like?
I wrote about a conversation I had with Yiğit Aksakoğlu from the Bernard van Leer Foundation of the Netherlands on early childhood.
We had spoken about the foundation’s works on the 0-3 age range. Aksakoğlu had underlined that this age range does not receive public investments.
The guidance the foundation provides in partnership with Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University to parents of children aged 0-3 in four Istanbul districts — Beyoğlu, Sarıyer, Maltepe and Sultanbeyli — is profound.
Their works on children and the city are very important.
How does a three-year-old perceive the city?
Are the city’s green spaces sufficient for the children at a time when environmental pollution is very high? Are the playgrounds designed to accommodate the kids comfortably?
How utopic, these questions, are for us, right?
There is a trend in the world that pushes local administrations to help improve the life quality of children in urban environments.
Some of these administrations receive the support of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.
The foundation has created wonders in Bogota through a project called “City95” – a project with an objective to perceive the city from the eyes of a healthy three-year-old, who would be around 95-cm tall.
Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogota, has created bicycle routes and some 1,200 playgrounds for children with a dream for a child-friendly city.
“When we create a child-friendly city, we will end up having a healthy city for all,” Penalosa had said. Is he not right?
When designing a child-friendly city, is it not in everyone’s benefit to design it so that there is more green space, a better infrastructure and where there is less traffic?
Tiran, the capital of Albania, like Bogota, has become a haven for children lately, Aksakoğlu says.
Rotterdam and Vancouver are also cities that are taking steps in such effort.
Coming back home, these four municipalities I have listed above, will create model playgrounds, Aksakoğlu says.
Selva Gürdoğan, founder of Studio-X Istanbul and Superpool Architecture, will design playgrounds targeting the 0-3-year age range as part of the “Istanbul95” project with support from Elger Blitz, known as the world’s number one playground designer.
The number of cities which are growing rapidly, losing its green spaces and natural treasures, which are subjected to harsh gentrification plans, and where traffic suffocates even more everyday are growing. It is not just Istanbul.
Meanwhile, Prof. Richard Florida, a U.S. urban expert, says “star cities” such as London, New York and Paris are becoming impossible living environments for the middle class.
Cities are becoming investment spots and residences for the rich instead of living spaces, Florida says.
Isn’t it the case with Istanbul?
“The crisis for the cities equals the modern capitalism crisis,” Florida says.
Thankfully, there are local administrations that try and attempt to tackle this issue.
“Cities are more than just buildings, streets and squares,” said a joint open letter penned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, published by the Guardian.
Cities are also the accumulation of its residents. “Our cities are facing the threat of extreme price hikes in rents, of losing its small businesses, local shops, and eventually losing those business owners altogether,” they said.
Both mayors highlight how they are limited in trying to help put the rent prices back on track in order to help the residents keep their living spaces. They are urging the state to take on this issue.
I guess their calls apply for Istanbul as well.