session 2 - Play & Sport

the Future Design of Streets – webinar series – 4th edition 2023

18 January 2023, 17.00-18.30 (GMT+1)

Speakers: Cidália Silva, Laska Nenova, Jose Llopis // Moderation: Daniel Casas Valle

How do we make space to play, to practise our sports, and to interact and meet people? By giving back street space to people, and by involving everyone on these actions.

Through the lens of children, Cidália and her students developed a study on a neighbourhood in the Guimarães municipality, with the focus to understand the accessibility to their school. By providing tools to look to their own place – walks, site visits, talks, debates, making drawing, etc. –  they collaborated on this project, highlighting the important playing and community areas, but also understanding areas of risk, as the main road and the river. “Playing means having the right to the street beforehand, the right to protection from the elements including rain, and hot summer sun. The experience of physical space is shrinking, meanwhile the digital one expands. Children are more and more prisoners in a very narrow space. Communities, politicians and academic are all responsible and we all certainly are.” Remarkable is also the fragmented character of incomplete systems, as a continuous and safe walking route to schools.

Not only giving back the right to citizens, but also the right of physical activity was the start of the presentation of Laska Nenova. The showed project – Parking Day for Fitness – started with some sport activities on streets, which developed further with Placemaking Europe into a toolkit that can be applied anywhere, by anyone. Combining physical activity and combining the public space is the aim for this event/programme. Existing parking places are (temporary) used to promote social interaction and for several physical activities (sports, playing, games and other kind of physical activities). Laska underlies that: “We are fighting for space with the cars. We wanted to create an easy to implement approach and tool that can be taken by anybody – the schoolteacher, the sports organisation, active student.”

In Valencia, the municipality together with several local associations, developed a plan to improve “the way from home to the door of the school”. By selecting all the public schools through an exhaustive survey and recognition of various places, a new design document was developed, including various possibilities and strategies for each place (´soft urbanism´ ~ ´hard urbanism´). This document forms an open basis wherein priorities can be selected and alternatives further explored. Jose LLopis plead for another attitude related to street design, in which “.. the people in charge, in the municipalities, should walk more around the street .. and go more into the street, take the computer, go to a bench and work from there. Because we are not seeing how the streets are function in everyday life.”

This session showed the wide variety on street design approaches. Some can be implemented directly, other ideas demands more time. For sure we can see streets also as space to play and to sport. In order to improve streets for this purpose, it is important to recognise these activities for future street designs.