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Design for Children

Children serve as a kind of "indicator species" of whether a neighborhood is vibrant or not. Cities designed for children work well for everyone.

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"We know a lot about the ideal environment for a happy whale or a happy mountain gorilla. We’re far less clear about what constitutes an ideal environment for a happy human being. One common measure for how clean a mountain stream, is to look for trout. If you find the trout, the habitat is healthy. It’s the same way with children in a city. Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people." —Enrique Pe ñalosa (see "To Save Our Cities, Put Children First" from Yes! Magazine, which opens with this quote).

The problem of creating vibrancy can be redefined, at least in part, as the challenge of designing for children.

Here's a few initial design goals this approach naturally leads to:

1. streets that you can play on
2. walkable neighborhoods (kids can't drive) - specifically parks within walking distance
3. education as a central experience (Christopher Alexander writes about how to utilize patterns around education to create vibrancy in " A Pattern Language" as well as how to make other city experiences work for children)
4. the city as an education tool
5. safe, friendly neighborhoods (i.e. Jane Jacobs' "Eyes on the Street")

By asking the kids, I think more design objectives could be found and concepts could be tested. In fact, it may be helpful to attempt to actively bring input from children into our evaluation phase of this challenge.


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