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Places where play unites us all: The Real Play City Challenge 2022 shortlist

In the category that focused on providing safe and healthy recreation opportunities for everyone regardless of age, wealth, gender, sexual orientation, physical or psychological challenges, culture or spiritual beliefs, the shortlist selection proved a challenging task for the jury. The scale of entries coupled with the impressive creativity in work shared by the playmakers demonstrates how important and powerful play can be at uniting people. 

Below are the shortlisted cities and urban practitioners who have been shortlisted for this category. Find out more about how they are helping to create playful placemaking initiatives in areas that have been struggling to build inclusive spaces that cater to all the diverse needs of the local community.


Basurama – Madrid, Spain:

In many school playgrounds across the world, cuts in funding and maintenance have made these important spaces decidedly less fun to be in. Equipment is thrown away instead of repaired and green spaces are diminishing. Working with Madrid Municipality, this innovative project focusses on using reclaimed materials to restore playgrounds to their former glory. A spin-off from the art initiative ‘Garbage does not exist,’ the project encourages and facilitates schools to transform their courtyards to make them more friendly and playable. Using waste parts from those same schools, the collective process of reusing materials is designed to help children learn to use tools and have fun in building their own environment. 

aProCh – Ahmedabad, India:
Initiatives about children are rarely started by children, which makes this particular initiative very special. A shorthand for ‘a protagonist in every child,’ aProCh is a community-based initiative, started by the kids at Riverside School in Ahmeabad, that’s spawned many projects since 2007. The programs aim is to keep kids at the centre of urban planning, with a specific focus on creating a child-friendly city where those from all walks of life can play safely and happily.

Despacio – Cali, Colombia:

Vivo Mi Calle is an initiative that aims to regenerate public spaces in Cali and Palmira, to make them safe for young people. Due to the operations of gangs in these cities, Vivo Mi Calle works with children and adolescents to identify places that need intervention. 

Once a derelict space has been chosen for regeneration, kids are also involved in deciding the ideal solutions for that space that would suit everyone’s needs. The resulting space is then used for play and guided activities as well.

MATT+FIONA – London, United Kingdom:
Working with children from Phoenix School, this initiative built a new, accessible playground at the new school site. Many who attend the school have severe autism, so familiarity with their environment is important for their comfort. The team designed the playground before leaving their previous school site, and then built it in the new one—bridging the move for the children by placing something familiar in the new space. The playground was also designed to meet the needs of all students, with tactile activities like model-making and performance.

Anidare Company – Lima, Perú:

My litte court, Safe fun place is one of the most successful ‘urban interventions’ under the Urban Early Childhood Learning Space programme. The project takes recreational spaces only used for one specific activity, and diversifies them to be more inclusive. My little court transformed the only public space in a neighbourhood—used predominantly by men to practice soccer—into a safer space now used by children too, especially girls. 

CoCriança – São Paulo:
This co-creating initiative strives to listen to what children and young people have to say about the spaces they want to be able to use in a city, and put it into practice. Through a series of workshops, the students of a local school were able to express their needs and wishes toward a somewhat derelict street in the neighbourhood. Together, they transformed the space for them and the wider community, to use for a whole range of needs and preferences.

The Chain Effect – Beirut, Lebanon:

Each day, children from the neighbourhood of Achrafieh needed to pass through a neglected pedestrian tunnel to get to school. The Chain Effect asked these children what could be done to make moving through this dark, scary tunnel a much more enjoyable experience, and worked with them to make it a reality. Through painting, planting, hanging signs, putting in seating, building a play area, and more, the initiative and the community transformed the dank tunnel into a space full of light and play.


Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation – Warangal, India:

This initiative sought to help discriminated minorities settles in MH Nagar slum to have access to a safe, fun and family-friendly play space. An abandoned rubbish dump was a great opportunity to transform a waste space into an inclusive space, complete with toilets, play equipment, walkways, sitting areas and educational materials. Now, around 50 children use the park daily and have a chance to integrate more with their neighbourhood communities.

Maltepe Municipality – Istanbul, Turkey:

In a city that held concern about public spaces causing traffic congestion, the Tactical ‘Pedestrian Priority’ Play Street project transformed an area between Ataköse Primary School and the metro station. The road was narrowed and implementations made to reduce traffic speed, along with landscaping designed for children to play in and enjoy. Now children in the area can play safely as they arrive at and leave school.

Rourkela Smart City – Nagar, India:

In slum areas, many minorities are excluded and children are often deprived of proper opportunities to play and be supported in the community. By setting up Play Friendly Slums in these areas, Rourkela is helping children who fall victim to stereotypes and social stigmas to have better access to play. To make these play areas as inclusive as possible, the initiative offers a diverse range of activities like pop-up libraries, sensory play activities and even health centres for underprivileged kids.

Municipality of Skawina – Skawina, Poland:

As Skawina is undergoing major development and growth, this initiative saw the importance of integrating newcomers to the city with those already calling it home. Key to this are inclusive public spaces where families and children can integrate from the get-go in a safe and playful environment. The initiative has turned 20 dilapidated outdoor areas into play spaces with sports fields, playgrounds, gardens and seating—now playing an important role in connecting communities. Going forward, the project hosts regular meetings with communities to make sure everyone’s thoughts and needs are accounted for.

Every entrant on this list is doing incredible work to help marginalised individuals to be included in and play with their communities, and the Real Play Coalition recognises every single one. In this category, two winners (one city and one urban practitioner), will be awarded at the Real Play City Challenge on the 18th of November, 2022. Stay tuned to our social media channels to get the latest updates on the award ceremony! 

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