A little time spent working with youth when planning the future of their areas can bring benefits. Newly aware of the environment beyond home, they bring fresh eyes into the dialogue. Their active lives enlarge the range of activities in the design. Their awareness of danger from traffic, from dangerous people and environments that pose a threat, can illuminate potential dangers in the design. A place that is safe for a child is safe for us all.
UNICEF has identified twelve characteristics of “Child Friendly Cities”, based on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, 1989 The Youth Manual addresses seven of them:
Childrenʼs rights to:
1. Influence decisions about their city
2. Express their opinion on the city they want
3. Participate in family, community and social life
4. Walk safely in the streets on their own.
5. Meet friends and play
6. Have green spaces for plants and animals
7. Live in an unpolluted environment
Stanley King’s City on the Wall exercise enables children to participate authentically in the first three characteristics. The last four traits are common images that have emerged from the childrensʼ drawings in over 200 City on the Wall workshops. The first was in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia in 1971, for the design of a community school. Major urban projects have followed, including Vancouver’s Robson Square, Granville Island, False Creek, Hastings Park/PNE; Victoria’s James Bay; Calgary’s Olympic Plaza, and Memorial Drive. Young people have contributed to the design of many parks, provincial and national parks, city neighbourhoods and small towns throughout Alberta and British Columbia.
When young people are included in planning, the designs show consistent characteristics; a humanity of scale, and a large range of activities that can be enjoyed in the new place. The involvement of youth in planning encourages civil behaviour and strengthens the community. Youth care for environments they have helped to design. Vandalism is noticeably absent.