Since 1975, obesity has nearly tripled globally, indicating a clear trend that threatens public health. Besides changing one’s diet, the illness can be prevented by performing sufficient physical activity. In the Netherlands however, currently only 20% of the children of 11 years old meet the World Health Organisation guidelines for physical activity (Volksgezondheidenzorg.info, 2020). This is worrisome, since habits of sedentary behaviour often stick with a person from youth to adulthood (Hirvensalo & Lintunen, 2018). (World Health Organisation, 2021)
The section Child and Adolescent Public Health Research & Innovation (CAPHRI) of the Amsterdam University Medical Centre commissioned this project to address the lack of physical activity of children in Amsterdam. This project specifically targets the Dapperplein, as the section identified an interesting opportunity space here: During the day it is occupied by its daily market, but in the evening, when the market is cleared, an open space is revealed. This project aims to find ways to use that open space, and design something that stimulates children’s physical activity at the Dapperplein, after market hours.
In order to do so, children living near the Dapperplein were engaged in co-creation. Co-creation with children has the potential to create a design that fits the users’ (children’s) needs, because it creates understanding of their context for the designer (me), via close involvement and collaboration of the user and designer in the design process. The children act as co-designers. During workshops with these children, as well as expert interviews, observations and a literature study the context of the Dapperplein was explored and problems were revealed. As the project discovered, the children (and their parents) do not consider the Dapperplein to be safe during the evening. This is due to people hanging out and drinking at the square, as well as traffic that crosses at speed. Additionally, a lack of hygiene because of market leftovers is identified. Lastly, there are few stimuli present for children to play.
To address these problems, the design of “De Klimkramen’’ was created. It proposes to place playing equipment at the Dapperplein that during the day, with addition of an awning and board, functions as market stalls. This creates a safe playing area, as it forms a physical barrier for traffic, and since it is inviting towards residents, more people will be there to keep an eye out. A sense of community is fostered as it is used in harmony with the market and forms an iconic view for the Dapperplein.
During an evaluation, the design was well received by representatives of the market, police and fire brigade, although adjustments are needed to ensure a better fit with the needs of the market vendors, and to avoid creating a new spot for people to hang out and consume alcohol.
Besides contributing to the section CAPHRI and to involved stakeholders with the design of “De Klimkramen”, this project contributes to the design field with a reflection on the application of co-creation with children, and practical tips for those who (will) apply the method.