(Photo by Flickr user joerapierjr, used under a Creative Commons license)
Public spaces like parks, libraries and rec centers are vital for childhood development.
They’re places where kids can learn how to play, socialize and expand their creative capacity. Public spaces can provide the hands-on, real world experiences a textbook could never offer.
How those public spaces are designed and maintained has direct impact on the communities that house them. Well-kept, modern parks and rec centers can be effective community building spaces. And though their neglected counterparts can rally concerned neighbors, blighted public spaces are nevertheless deeply detrimental to community health and image.
That fractured infrastructure is all-too familiar to many Philadelphia communities, and it’s the reason why Mayor Jim Kenney is reportedly exploring an approximately $500 million investment in the city’s public spaces over the course of his first term.
But besides giving a library flashy technology or installing new equipment in a park, what does effective design look like in public spaces?
That’s the subject of a 24-month initiative spearheaded by the Community Design Collaborative and Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children called Play Space, an exploration into how to design public space for maximum community impact.
Last September, Play Space issued a challenge to landscape architects, designers and civil engineers across the world: Build an interdisciplinary team and use cutting edge play design to reimagine three public spaces in Philadelphia.
Funded by the William Penn Foundation, the international pool of 40 applicants in the Play Space Design Competition has now been whittled down to nine finalists. Those nine finalists include teams from Chicago, Atlanta, Canada and China. Five of the teams are local to Philadelphia.
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The three local spaces getting hypothetical makeovers are the Free Library‘s Cobbs Creek branch, Waterloo Recreation Center in Norris Square and Mill Creek-based public school Haverford Bright Futures.
Teams will present their designs to the sites’ communities on March 16, and three teams will be selected by those communities to win $10,000. Engaging community members in the process is critical.
“The community has been an integral part of the process from the start, from helping with the site selection process, to providing input for the competition brief, and now participating in the vote,” said Play Space Program Manager Alexa Bosse in a release. “We truly feel that play space belongs to the community, and involving them in the process reinforces the Collaborative’s overall commitment to strengthening communities through engagement.”-30-
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