When most cities grow, they do so in ways that extend the formally planned grid, serving the adult public but ignoring the conditions that facilitate a rich childhood. The congested public spaces, long distances and lack of security that this produces rob children of their potential. Involving children in the playground design process and the creation of better neighborhood relations might be the change required.

LPU asks: How can childhood survive in cities of developing countries?

Tareeq answers: In Amman, a city well known for its lack of parks, we found a few derelict locations in areas where children lacked recreational spaces. The Jordanian capital is in need of an alternate form of park: places where childhood can play in the open, jump around, and uncork its laughter.

Parks don’t need to be that green, and they don’t need to be that large. According to our method, we build up empty urban spaces that are currently used as de facto walkways and shortcuts. We mold them into areas that invite pause. The spaces we design are both created and maintained by those who use them.

In Amman, we chose a location that was hiding among a huddled group of two-storey buildings: an intimate, U-shaped alleyway.

Before rushing to sketch, we contacted the community and city officials. We then held a meeting with a group of boys and girls from the surrounding neighborhood and asked them about their hopes for a better living environment: What is your dream city? How can we help make this dream come true? Their mothers sat with them, listening and encouraging them to put forward their ideas.

After listening to the specific requests and then some brainstorming, we decided to carve out a recreational space from this unique alleyway. The design lays out three separate areas for three different age groups. This would provide the children space to engage well with their peers. The different sections however, were allowed to intersect, so that the children would be able to mingle with other age groups.

We will now continue to work with the residents’ propositions and visions–especially those from the children–and transform the environment into something where childhood will not only survive but also flourish. The results of this metamorphosis will be displayed in the second part of the article.