Author: Taye Olajide
Project Lead: Taye Olajide
Community Partners: Kids Skating Series
PLAY is a tool to restore city fabrics. In Abuja we involve both the young and old in a public space renewal process that feature skating as a means to build confidence, ownership of public spaces, and of course inspire fun.
Open Architecture Nigeria (OAN) initiated an annual event called the Kids Skating Series in 2015 for one day of collective action to engage young children of diverse background and status in Abuja. We called these events outdoor skating cocktails. While the main goal is to drive home the importance of play spaces by putting children literally on center stage it also seeks to advocate for the power of public spaces as a unique tool for effective community engagement and a culture of ownership. This is a hyperlocal example of how activating public spaces has benefits for community health, like this example in NYC.
Visibly recognized as one of the biggest challenges of urbanism is consummation of open public spaces. The continual neglect and growth of deferred maintenance leads to the decay of public spaces, with playgrounds suffering the most. This issue is only heightened by the design culture’s lack of advocacy for such environmentally friendly and proven healthy spaces as commissions for buildings continue to soar. Open Architecture Nigeria is combating this lack of support for our youth with the day of collective action to engage youth and other stakeholders including City officials, bring a diverse network together to celebrate the idea of play and encouraging use of streets to reorient everyone’s perception toward what is possible.
Though the production of the event is usually a very difficult task, particularly in this part of the world, and especially when it deals with the complexity of problems that many perceive as the Government’s role for improper planning in a disadvantaged neighborhood. A key part of the event is to allow everyone to simply take part in their own way while focusing on the children and learning how they play. After three years of producing the event this key element of giving many stakeholders unique ways of seeing the same outcome – kids taking ownership of their spaces and learning to creatively play together – is encouraging others to reclaim the “forgotten” and neglected public spaces as valuable amenities. Ideally this event ensures the reinvestment in a safe and clean play environment as part of our own urban furniture, and future. Today we temporarily build trust and a sense of community around our shared spaces by focusing on children and their skating, tomorrow, who knows maybe they are designing a building their own state funded play structure for generations to come!