Barcelona’s enduring public playgrounds
Updated: Oct 29, 2019
Most afternoons, Sofia and I head out to the playground to get some sun and fresh air, but mostly so she could unleash her unlimited toddler energy. We have 3 different playgrounds to choose from within the same block to the next, but we usually decide to walk a bit further to our favorite one. The moment the gates open, she goes off in a heartbeat.
Barcelona's playgrounds are these small pockets tucked among bustling establishments, outdoor dining areas, people and vehicle traffic and amidst the city’s increasing touristic activities. In terms of the play furniture and overall environment, both encourage movement as well as develop spatial awareness through varied surfaces and spacing while maintaining safety by means of barrier and material usage. The sense of imagination is also stimulated with elements that mimic animals and nature. According to Urban Play, a leader in play furniture design, these features are essential for the development of the sensory and motor skills of children. On the other hand, adults coming from diverse backgrounds, take part with the activities, rest or socialize. Thus, apart from their obvious purpose, two striking features of Barcelona playgrounds emerge. Tucked among the city’s busy and touristic activities, creates a sense of presence and visibility that recognizes the active local life and the spaces claimed by the residents. Second, with their ability to accommodate a diverse social and cultural coming-together considers them ideal neighborhood public spaces.
Since the Ajuntament of Barcelona started “Barcelona dona molt de joc” in 2015 until completion in 2019, 89 newly-built playground areas across the city will be opened as well as 150 more of existing ones for redevelopment[i]. Allotting a 20.17 Million budget, this is part of the bigger effort of the municipal government to build on the importance of public spaces for diversity and inclusiveness as well as the role of play in public spaces, re-asserting Barcelona as one of the world’s child-friendly cities. To aid this vision, project goals involve a participative approach where parents, residents and institutions act as representative of children’s interests. Likewise, the goals also include developing a set of strategies for planning and monitoring. For instance, the incorporation of creative games to stimulate the imagination, varying terrain and textures to create different spots and surroundings and features for inclusive play according to age, gender, culture and functional diversity. Another is also about facilitating contact with nature and the exploration of natural elements as well as promoting collaborative play.[ii]
Beyond this 2015-2019 plan, the “Pla d’impuls del joc a l’espai públic 2020-2030” will be introduced in 2019 as a continuation of the existing efforts. This future plan will include objectives that uphold the importance of recreation towards the well-being of the citizens. This hopes to enrich the current vision, goals and accomplishments by involving an extensive view of public spaces in relation to security, risk management and autonomy.
Eventually, Sofia and the rest of the children in these playgrounds will grow older and will be replaced by other generations. Society will also evolve and keep changing. However, that kind of presence a neighborhood playground bears, the outdoor life and diverse social background it supports as well as the memories it holds will always be enduring. Thus, for Barcelona to keep its local and social life flourishing, it has to keep shaping and preserving these small yet vital pieces.
About the Author:
Jec Alforque is an architect by profession and urbanist by passion. She is interested in the convergence of the spatial, social, economic and environmental facets of life and how they manifest themselves in the urban setting.
Born and raised in the tropical land of the Philippines where having fun is an understatement, she moved to Europe to pursue a more global way of approaching things. She graduated from MSc Urban Management and Development at IHS. She currently resides in Barcelona, awaiting to get her hands dirty for heaps of urban planning and management issues.
[i] Dossier de Premsa, February 9, 2018; Ajuntament de Barcelona; www.barcelona.cat/premsa
[ii] Dossier de Premsa, February 9, 2018; Ajuntament de Barcelona; www.barcelona.cat/premsaBarcelona’s enduring public playgrounds