Redesigning playscapes with children and youth


NGO Gradionica

Location: Niko Rolović High School, Bar, Montenegro

Participants: children and highschoolers aged 12–19

Key words: multifunctional platform, co-design, schoolyard, community, play elements, immersive space

Although Bar doesn’t have problems with the quantity of green areas, as can be the case in larger cities, under the influence of intensive urbanization in favor of uncontrolled tourism growth and the weakening correlation of planning documents with the needs of communities, every plot in the city is a potential source of profit. Although not directly, the large green areas planned around public institutions during the socialist era are a huge challenge, especially in light of the decreasing number of quality planned plots for construction. Thus, the courtyard belonging to a high school also became a target, which in 2019 was devastated by the construction of a kindergarten, leading to community protests. The courtyard suffered significant damage, and the RE:PLAY project is one way to bring back some of its functionalities.

Using various coloring methods offers the opportunity to teach children multiple techniques, create smaller groups, distribute the workload, and engage more children in the process.
Preparation is key for a successful and organized workshop with children. While explaining details and using checklists are important, the most crucial element in co-creating with children is to have fun during the process and keep them engaged.
Encouraging exploration opens the door for children to become more comfortable with trying new coloring techniques. Shy participants often fear making mistakes, but they can be reassured that there are no mistakes in the creative process—it’s all part of the adventure.
It’s important to recognize that each participant brings their unique strengths to the table. Some individuals may have a knack for drawing, while others could excel in capturing moments through photography. Some might shine when it comes to organizing materials or tasks, while others are adept at facilitating communication within the group.

Through this pilot project, in collaboration and co-design process with children, a solution was reached for several burning problems highlighted by the children in the analytical phase — the lack of shade to protect them from the hot Mediterranean climate, a space with developed green infrastructure that they don’t have to wait for years to grow, a space near the school where they can spend short and long breaks without having to go to nearby cafés, a small outdoor classroom as a fundamental instrument for most school curricula. Also, a small stage for performances and celebrations that were canceled by the demolition of the amphitheater in the previous courtyard, depriving children of the opportunity to celebrate the end of the school year in the school’s vicinity. In short, the main place for extracurricular socializing, play, and entertainment, or in one word — “CUBES”. 

The co-design phase was present in the imprinting phase of the project, starting with the analysis, throughout the phase of project proposals and gathering students’ suggestions, all the way until the last moment where children got the opportunity to work directly on building up their own schoolyard equipment, the Cubes (Kockice). 

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