When my daughter was a baby, I wandered the open air public market of Kiel in northern Germany drinking Christmas gluhwein – a mulled wine beverage – in a holiday mug. Small, round, waist-high tables lined the walks so that people like me could pause in the midst of the all the activity, set down their drinks, visit with friends and family while watching the hum and flo of pedestrians.
These days, that baby is grown up, and my eight year-old daughter goes shopping with me. She walks on the bricks dividing the garden bed from the Zellers sidewalk. These bricks are just bricks, turned on their side. Nothing special.
But, to my daughter, this pathway to the store is magical. The bricks are crocodile teeth. And, she proudly tells me, “I’m walking in a crocodile’s mouth!”
The bricks do look like teeth, dug into the ground at a sloping angle. Ah, young eyes. They re-vision everything, giving rise to fresh possibilities wherever they look.
But it doesn’t have to take much to add something special to the urban environment.
To a child, the entire city looks like a playground. Every curb, staircase, railing, and lamppost. Something to crawl on, or clamber up, or tumble over.
Whether it’s a bench tucked away in a shady corner, or a staircase railing wide enough to lay on and catch some rays (I’m thinking of the spots behind the Stadium Skytrain Station in Vancouver) or tables lining a pedestrian walkway in an open air market that invite a friendly moment between people and a respite in one’s day…maybe all we have to do is re-vision our public spaces, the way kids do.
Bruno Taylor, who’s doing a degree in industrial design at the University of the Arts in London, is asking how we can put the play back into public spaces. Not by creating intentional play grounds – specific grounds for playing — but by incorporating elements of play into existing spaces. Incidental play.
His master’s project asks us to “question the current framework for public space and whether it is sufficient while also giving permission for young people to play in public.”
When was the last time you walked in a crocodile’s open mouth?
Visit Tree Hugger to find out more about him.