With the rise of civil awareness, public space utilization has gradually gained people’s attention, especially the user experience aspect. Among the most discussed spaces are park facilities, due to their common installment.
From the 1990s to the 2010s, canned amusement equipment was commonly installed in park playgrounds. These kinds of composite structures are standardized products, made mainly of plastic.
In 2015, a group of mothers formed Taiwan Parks and Playgrounds for Children by Children (TPPCC), calling for parks to be designed with children in mind, replacing canned amusement equipment with parent and child-friendly facilities.
Promoted in community workshops, policy presentations and on social media, TPPCC has persuaded the Taipei and New Taipei City governments to adopt their proposals, incorporating the concept of participatory design into park plans and thus gradually diversifying amusement equipment in park areas.
The following year, the Taipei City Government started to remove canned amusement equipment in 57 parks, such as Linong Park, Rongxing Garden Park, Dajia Riverside Park and Bihu Park.
Some play components designed with local features and adventure settings, which provide a challenging environment, were installed, turning the canned playground into an inclusive one.
This is an example of successful citizen participation, showing how civil power can alter society’s imagination and plans for public spaces.
While women’s rights groups have striven for negotiations on spaces for children, the ambivalence toward park utilization between generations has steadily emerged.
Inclusive playground designer Michael Cohen has said that many playgrounds known for their “multi-generational” design, to a large extent, neglect the needs of older people, due to their overemphasis on children’s needs.
Notably, according to the Taipei City Government’s definition of incorporated playgrounds, they should “put emphasis on the needs of different children under different circumstances, offering equal engagement in play areas.”
Apparently in the eyes of the people concerned, the aging population, which constitutes a huge group of people, does not count as users of inclusive playgrounds.
Although older people might no longer be as strong and energetic as young people, it does not mean that they lack the energy to use outdoor playgrounds.
According to the Taipei City Government Inclusive Playground Design Principle, playgrounds should exclude spacial barriers and promote fair use “for everyone,” a definition that should include not only children, but also older people and those with disabilities.
“Be inclusive” and “be fair,” Taipei City Parks and Street Lights Office section head Hsu Yao-jen (許耀仁) once said, adding that the concept of designing inclusive amusement equipment is to break down user age and ability boundaries to “allow different groups of people to play and cooperate with each other, achieving mutual growth.”
However, when actually planning and building urban parks, the design for seniors remains mostly outmoded, and mostly only fitness equipment for gentle exercise is considered.
Such design not only fails to consider the needs of exercise, safety, entertainment and social interaction, but also fails to fulfill the purpose of building inclusive playgrounds that offer opportunities for cross-age and cross-group engagements.
To address this, a design group formed by Lin Zi-chen (林子宸) and Hsu Tian-rui (許天睿), who are landscape architecture students at Chung Yuan Christian University, provides a different solution.
“Energetic Senior Lifestyle” designed cross-age, interactive amusement equipment called “A-Mazing” (迷宮樂). Distinct from play components and fitness equipment in normal parks, A-Mazing allows for the participation of multiple users simultaneously through a large wooden table design.
Along with its unique external appearance and mutual cooperative game mechanics, A-Mazing not only provides opportunities and facilitates interaction between children and older adults, it also aids in improving muscle training and cognitive function. While satisfying the needs of both groups, A-Mazing artfully fulfills the original intention of inclusive playground design.
Additionally, a concept of “intergenerational co-housing” has emerged. Mentioned by several politicians in the past few days, the idea aims to attract groups of people who are not related, of different ages and from different generations, to share living space with inclusive design.
Perhaps before building more intergenerational spaces, the public sector should contribute more toward building cross-age and cross-group parks, especially on building an intergenerational co-playing “Space for All Ages,” laying a foundation for more amusement equipment with inclusive space designs, such as A-Mazing, in Taiwan’s parks.
Chang Liang and Wu Xiao-mi are studying for their master’s degrees at National Yang-Ming University’s Institute of Science, Technology and Society.
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