Zoom in Details
The design of a public space intervention in an informal neighbourhood of north Lima responds to the needs of families through a 7-step iterative testing and adaption process.
- Government Agencies Engaged:
- Parks and Gardens, Social Development, Transportation, Urban Development
- Implementing Agency:
- District Municipality of Comas, Coordinadora de la Ciudad en Construcción (CCC)
- Funding Source:
- Bernard van Leer Foundation
- This intervention is targeting a central public space in an area with scarcity of quality public spaces. It is chosen to be strategically located to allow access to as many as possible. Taking in consideration a communal public canteen and a pre-scholar school as anchors and identifying routes families take to get to those places, making the way safer, healthier and with playful opportunities that support positive interactions.
- Implementation action in focus:
- Test and refine
- Disctrict Municipality of Comas (Lima, Peru)
- Parque Tahuantinsuyo, neighbourhood of La Balanza in Comas, northern Lima. The pakr is estimated to be used by about 316 children between 0-3 per month, out of a total of 1748 users of various ages per month.
Summary of Intervention/Programme
In the informal neighbourhoods of north Lima, there is a scarcity of public spaces suitable for the community to spend time, and for children to play. The Urban95 programme in Lima partnered with local municipalities and the community organisation CCC to engage in improvements of strategic public spaces.
“When leaving the pre-school, (…) kids enter the furniture and start playing. Thus, the possibility of using the park on a daily basis is incorporated into the routine of families, which creates more opportunities for linking neighbors.” – Social monitoring team of the project.
The objective is to engage communities by providing a space for people to gather, and families to bring their young children. The design includes playful elements, storytelling, and other prompts to support positive interaction between babies, toddlers and their caregivers.
The methodology applied to design and build the space is iterative. Simple initial designs are first implemented, with the objective of being easily adaptable (choice of materials, temporary interventions) and generate a sense of appropriation. The temporary design is built with community participation and opened. Observation on how the play elements and the spaces are being used then informs the next design steps, and so on until the final design. In the process, families and children gradually build their ownership over the project by getting involved in construction, design, monitoring and maintenance.
What worked well
The iterative process for design is based on a strong community engagement practice. The designers and architects could connect with the community because of a local organisation that is expert in the process and is embedded locally. The importance here was to balance the larger needs for a public space for all in the area while still allowing for playful elements for children. The local organization gave technical assistance to local operators and civil servants so that they could learn from the process. This was only possible through the engagement process.
Due to the scarcity of public space in the zone, people were not used to have it and therefore did not gather for it. They went to other places for recreation, further away. Little options were adapted for proximity needs of families, and caregivers simply did not take their babies and children out to play. The first step was therefore to get the people in the neighbourhood interested and engaged in creating that place.
The highly interactive design and building process that followed allowed to build a public space that best fit the needs of residents and that carefully supports the development of babies, toddlers and their families. It also helps with building ownership from the community over the new space, and increase utilisation.
Simple but effective design
The playful elements are simple, a web of metallic bars at various heights, some car tires, and most importantly, edges to sit on and talk. Keeping the design simple enables many different groups to use the space in their own way. This was important because the area has no real public space other than unpaved roads, and therefore have to cater for the whole community. Designing a space for all, while still instilling elements of play, also creates more opportunities for intergenerational interactions.
Showing what’s possible
The intervention in Lima Norte gained international attention as it won the first place among 238 other competitors for the International Urban Development and Social Inclusion Contest, run by the Latin American development bank CAF’s “Cities with a Future” programme. The methodology is now being used as a example for replication across Lima.