RE:PLAY – Redesigning playscapes with children in Western Balkans

RE:PLAY – Redesigning playscapes with children in Western Balkans


Project leader: Pazi!Park!, Slovenia

Kreativni krajobrazi, Croatia

Škogled, Serbia

Qendra Marrëdhënie (Relationship Center), Albania

Gradionica, Montenegro

Maximum grant awarded: 424,947.00 €

For centuries, educators and theorists of childhood have stressed that children do not need to be disciplined to learn so much, but rather to be provided with the right environment and tools to pursue their learning themselves. Unstructured play in nature enables children to take risks, explore their curiosity, and cultivate their imagination, independence, and empathy for others – traits that shape their ability to learn throughout life. Yet increasingly, urban childhood is hyper-supervised, tightly scheduled, socially divided and disconnected from the natural world. The last decades of auto-centric planning have drastically reduced children’s ability to move and play independently in the city. Cultural norms surrounding early childhood have become preoccupied with minimizing risk, and this is reflected in the often boring, risk-free brand of play design that treats childhood as a liability that must be managed.

But play is too vital to neglect – it should be recognized as a form of public expression as important as music or art, and should be prioritized by urban design as much as walking or resting. We have a responsibility as cultural practitioners and urbanists to make this so. While design cannot dictate how play takes place, it can create spatial and material conditions for more enriching kinds of play to unfold.

The RE:PLAY project presents a dialogical and collaborative approach to rethinking play as a distinctly human capacity. It highlights the significance of designing spaces for (and with) children to feel free of bounds, particularly in the Western Balkan (WB) context, where urban design is marked by social, political and cultural boundaries that translate to segregated and often privatized playscapes. The RE:PLAY partners will pioneer a co-creative design process involving children as primary collaborators, with the aim of transforming the status quo of play design in the WB and creating more inclusive and exciting infrastructures of play in our cities. The project will enable the exchange of expertise on working with children of different age and from different socio/economic/cultural registers and will result in a regional network leaving behind five collectively designed and build public playgrounds.