Little InterventionsPlaytime Latest

05/10/2009 – Little Interventions

Revolutions needn’t always be big bloody affairs, the tiniest of gestures can affect significant social change. Enterprising residents of an area of Portland, Oregon in the US transformed their world by turning the intersection at the end of their street into a neighbourhood park. It was a very gradual process but bit by bit they reclaimed the street and now residents of all ages have somewhere to meet and mix, grab a coffee, play, relax and chat. The slow process of creating the park brought together people who might never normally have met and changed the social dynamic of the community. Grappling with the complexities of planning policy and law proved a profound learning experience and through that the residents developed an insight into how to affect meaningful political change in their community. Perhaps the biggest winners in this radical urban transformation were those who usually have the least say; children.

Programmes such as the Growing Up In Cities Project run by UNESCO show how important the freedom to wander and play in their neighbourhood is to children. They develop a range of important life skills, make friends and have fun. The more pedestrian dominated an area is, the more likely people are to see and get to know one another. Where cars are not a priority on the road they are less of a threat to the lives of children out playing. At the same time when children can play unimpeded by traffic outside adults and children in an area are more likely to know one another and look out for one another, so there is less concern about strangers.

Recognising the value of transforming local streets into pedestrian friendly areas Dublin City Council have adopted a local community initiative and working with plans designed by local children in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7, will create a small pocket park on a street next to a community garden later this month. The idea for the park originated from the community garden group who have two annual parties on the street celebrating summer and autumn together. It began with concern over cars driving along the street during the party as children played and grown-ups danced. Permission to close the street for a few hours twice a year seemed like a possibility, but why stop there? The community put together a proposal for a pocket park and have so far gathered many signatures in support. The city council was so impressed with the idea they decided to implement a pilot of the project during Innovation Week, October 14th to 18th. As with the transformation of the intersection in Portland, the children look set to be the main winners with this initiative; gaining a park which perhaps for the first time ever in Dublin will be designed entirely according to their proposals and ideas.

Watch this space for an update on how the Dublin 7 pocket park worked, and hopefully some nice photos of children and adults alike outside enjoying another small social revolution.

Special thanks to City Repair for use of the above photograph of ‘Freda’s Tree Intersection Painting’.