Play Everywhere is a new concept, so in addition to our experience creating dozens of Play Everywhere projects, we wanted to evaluate what works. What key ingredients foster play and culture change? We called on the international experts on people and public spaces, Gehl, to help us answer this question.
Using a multi-method approach, Gehl studied the projects to understand who visits, what they do when visiting, how they feel and how design impacts activity. Data was collected and reported by each winning project via intercept questionnaires and spatial assessments. Additionally, Gehl visited nine sites to conduct more in-depth on-site observations, design analysis and interviews with stakeholders.
Communities across the U.S. are thrilled to have more Play Everywhere opportunities and are positive about even the smallest investments— like a fresh coat of paint— into spaces they use every day, such as a bus station in Lexington, KY, or step streets in the South Bronx. Not all the projects saw dramatic increases in play-activity, due to locations in places with little pedestrian foot traffic or separate from natural kid routes or hubs.
Whether there was a lot of play or not in the short term, the projects— just by being installed— began to foster culture and mindset change. By locating in places where people had not experienced play before, the Play Everywhere projects demonstrated the potential of existing public spaces, such as an exercise trail alongside a light rail, to provide more opportunity for kids and families. They showed that small (under $50,000) and quick (in less than 3 months) investments can create long-term platforms for communities to come together and reimagine the potential of their city spaces.
Highlights from the findings revealed:
When we examine these findings, four key ingredients for creating a successful Play Everywhere project rise to the top. These include:
We also found that a mix of 4 spatial and social conditions make projects more inviting to play.
There is no single magic formula for a great Play Everywhere space, yet there is a combination of unique factors that influence how playful a place is. Elements related to Life - what kids and people do and their behavior; Space - the location and context around it; and Installation - the quality and design of the Play Everywhere project, each contribute to making a successful project.
Evaluates if the project had an inclusive development process that incorporated feedback from kids and the core audiences.
Evaluates if the project facilitates play, especially play that fosters imagination and creativity.
Evaluates if the project meets needs articulated by the community, for play or other amenities.
Evaluates if the project is close to places where kids live, study or pass by.
Evaluates if the project provides shade, seating or other amenities for caretakers, especially if the site is more of a destination place than a Play Everywhere place.
Evaluates how programming is used and whether the project is used to activate the public space with activities.
Evaluates the flexibility of the space/installation for different visitors.
Evaluates if kids are the prime audience or if the project is tied to a larger urban design initiative not directly connected to play.
Evaluates the quality and upkeep of the installation.