Living their formative years between islands of domesticity and virtual worlds, the pandemic placed ‘Gen C’ in a strange and disparate environment, with many still suffering the effects of a collective trauma. ‘The Right to the Playful City’ explores how children inhabit cities and questions the role of urban play in the development of emboldened and creative young citizens in a post-crisis era.
Embedded in the geography of Sheffield are clear socio-economic hierarchies where zones of deprivation and affluence are located in distinct areas, with inhabitants rarely crossing borders and with varied access to creative play for children. Set against a decade of austerity and a global pandemic, like many UK cities, Sheffield’s city centre faces a cost of living crisis, a post-retail era, and a loss of socio-spatial infrastructure.
Inspired by Aldo Van Eyck’s post-war, public playgrounds of Amsterdam, the ‘Right to the Playful City’ imagines a ribbon of sculptural playscape nodes installed along a connected route through the city, marked by expressive wayfinding, colour and festivity, enlivening streetscapes and invoking creative play. The project reactivates three prominent sites in the heart of the city with ‘lost’ potentialities. Boundaryless and merging with the city’s fabric, children from every corner of the city will have equal access to urban creative play. They are offered a space in the city to inhabit and exchange stories, invoking a sense of shared ownership, democratising play in the inner city and (re)connecting ‘Gen C’ citizens with a sense of place.