Building a Kid-Friendly Playground in Dhaka

Building a Kid-Friendly Playground in Dhaka

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Block by Block Workshops empower women and children to design a safe, kid-friendly playground in densely populated Dhaka.

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Building a Kid-Friendly Playground in Dhaka

Block by Block Workshops empower women and children to design a safe, kid-friendly playground in densely populated Dhaka. Credit: UN-Habitat

Background

In 2017, significant numbers of the Rohingya population fled Myanmar to Bangladesh, many to the capital city of Dhaka. With nearly 10 million people residing in 300 square kilometers, Dhaka is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Unfortunately, frequent pressures from air pollution, heavy traffic, dense slums, and inadequate infrastructure prevent citizens from enjoying a higher quality of life. In the wake of the refugee crisis, the need for usable public spaces reached a new high.

UN-Habitat ran a pilot study to survey the existing public spaces in Dhaka. The study identified 26 public spaces between two wards, but only three had lighting or security features, resulting in very low usage by women and children.

The study concluded with the selection of the Boishakhi Khelar Math playground for renovation. Its open space and general lack of maintenance made it popular for men’s cricket, but it lacked much other activity. UN-Habitat, HealthBridge, and The Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust collaborated to bring a Block by Block Workshop to Dhaka so local residents could provide direct input to the project.

Public participation has always been one of the most challenging aspects of development. The Block by Block Methodology fills this void by providing an alternative means of communication for the community. It truly changes the dynamics by engaging those who were previously left out of the discussions such as youth, women, and elderly people.
— Kyle Farrell, Block by Block

Building a Kid-Friendly Playground, Block by Block

Local residents from five nearby wards gathered to learn and design with Minecraft. In total, 54 participants attended the April 2018 Block by Block Workshop to study the city, learn Minecraft design principles, and use the video game to illustrate their ideas for making the Boishakhi Khelar Math playground more welcoming and safe for children.

Over the course of three days, six teams collaborated with two Minecraft consultants to design a playground with safe walkways, functional utilities, and added security. The varied designs all highlighted three key features: a separate playspace for kids, wide central walking paths, and public facilities.

Progress

The renovated playground opened in October 2018. Bright, colorful murals painted by locals make a cheerful backdrop, and lightweight fencing adds a level of security while still making the space welcoming. New plants, play equipment, and multicolored tires add needed structure, and women and children now visit in much greater numbers.

Dhaka residents gather at the renovated playground. Credit: UN-Habitat

After a couple of hours with Minecraft, people can really start expressing themselves. It’s a fantastically easy medium to pick up.
— Pontus Westerberg, UN-Habitat