Cities that are planned to be inclusive for children are “inclusive for all”, says head of CAMP

How would cities look if we designed them with children in mind? That’s the topic of an event hosted by Prague’s Centre for Architecture and Metropolitan Planning (CAMP) taking place on Wednesday evening. The lecture, titled “Start with Children”, argues for cities to put children at the centre of urban planning in order to create greener, safer places for youth to grow. Head architect at CAMP, Štěpán Bärtl, told me more.

“Today we have a special event called ‘Start with Children’, which is a preview for a conference taking place next month in Bratislava. The idea is quite simple, it’s the theory that if you design a city that is friendly and inclusive towards children, it will be friendly and inclusive for all. Our panel is going to discuss how to make Prague, and cities in general friendlier to children and our future generations.”

Štěpán Bärtl | Photo: Tomáš Vodňanský,  Czech Radio

To start off, what would designing a city that is better suited for children look like?

“A lot of these things aren’t only for children. It’s all about changing the mind-set about how we design cities for the most vulnerable groups in society, that being children and the elderly. This will have a great effect on how the city is going to work. For example, take transportation – how we work with cars and safety, and how we make cities more walkable so parents aren’t afraid to let their kids out of their sight.

“It’s also a lot to do with public space. Recently, I became a father, and whenever I leave my neighbourhood bubble, there are so many physical barriers you need to address, starting with how to cross the street and how to use the metro. Looking further ahead, we also address issues like affordable housing and availabilities in kindergartens. So it’s all about designing better cities, but we explore it through the lens of how we can make them better for children.”

Stromovka park in Prague | Photo: Jolana Nováková,  Czech Radio

So it’s not just restricted to architecture and the designs of cities in this sense, it’s also about factors such as schools and affordable housing.

“Exactly, it has a lot to do with education as well. Cities are the main cause of climate change, but they could also be the solution as well. It’s a lot to do with education and sustainability – about how we can raise kids in an environment where it’s safer and sustainable then ours or our parents was.”

I’ll ask you to reflect a little bit on how Prague is designed right now, and what could be changed so it would be a more child friendly city?

“I think the easiest way to imagine it is by trying to get to work with a stroller – and whether it’s a sidewalk, a street crossing, or going into the metro – it takes a lot of planning. I think Prague is getting better at this, and a lot of the new reconstructions have barrier-free access in mind. I think a special case too is walkability and the concept of the ‘15 Minute City’,  where you have your work, relaxation, and all the activities and resources you need within a 15 minute radius, and I think this would really help with raising children.

“The radius of how far you allow your kids to go has been getting smaller and smaller. Our grandparents used to walk a lot further than our parents, and our kids now are often driven to school and their extra-curricular activities. I think focussing on the concept of a walkable, 15 minute city is a great way to go."