Guldängen Bygglekplats - adventure and building playground

Format Alternative Pedagogy

City Malmö, Sweden

Malmö – We catalyse childrens desire to create. We give them tools, materials and space and just let them loose. They build whatever they want. Its chaotic, loud and messy. But its also their first step into actively influencing urban landscapes and participating in the making of the city. They learn about tools, materials, physics, structure and at the same time take their rightful space in this adult urban world. The adventure playground is a free zone for the kids and their culture. We use it as their laboratory for realizing their ideas about the future of cities.

Children are under-served on multiple levels when it comes to their right to the city.
Cities mostly have a chronic lack of public spaces for young people and especially spaces where children can actively influence their environment are almost non-existent. At the same time, there is a lack of tools and occasions where children are involved in the creation of urban landscapes. Here in Malmö, we address both of these issues with an old, but almost forgotten answer: Bygglek (adventure play). In the heart of the city and in one of it's most diverse neighborhoods we created Malmö's only adventure and building playground. A space where children can gather, explore and create according to their own pace. The site started out with some shipping containers, some tools and a pile of trash, but has since grown into a small world of its own.

Mobilization Gather supporters

If you are an individual, you want to gather a group of families or like-minded people. Forming a voluntary association to create a common platform is often helpful as it gives the idea a structure and helps to pool resources, but it's not always necessary. Luckily, many people have kids and many parents like the idea of creating more play spaces for children. You might use social media to reach out in different local groups that feel relevant.

Location Locate a site

Whether you want a permanent space or just a temporary "pop-up" playground, the location is often the tricky bit. Many countries have playground laws in place that are specific and detailed, and, depending on the municipal governments interpretation of these, it can be more or less difficult to get a space. Chances increase if the plot is somewhat underused and has no particular development value. In our case It was an empty park that was just a big lawn with some trees, but without any specific aesthetic value. It can help to locate spaces in under served area as an increased sense of security through activation of the space can be a strong argument. 
Besides communally owned spaces it's also possible to contact private landowners. Often they are reluctant as they fear liability lawsuits as build-play might not be as safe in their eyes. Showcasing other examples and using scientific studies might alleviate some of these concerns, as well as amplifying voices of the neighborhood that might wish for such a space.

Things you need Collect the materials / storage

Two things are important in this step:

  1. The project has a higher rate of success and longevity if the gathered materials are not stored outside on the spot and your place starts looking like a garbage dump. Property owners and neighbors might intervene and you will loose support. Think of this before you start this project. Try to find a close by storage space. That can be a friendly neighbors cellar, a school or an organisation's space. Or try to fix up some kind of shed or as in our case a shipping container if possible. It keeps the materials dry and can also function as a gathering spot.
  2. Keep it simple. Nails, hammers and saws are all the tools you need to start. Hammer and saw can be purchases second hand easily and nails are usually cheap. You could also try to get materials from sponsors from big hobby/construction/gardening stores. A convincing argument is that the playground creates the builders of tomorrow.
    To collect building materials such as palettes, tires, or wood, often you can find them in the most unexpected places. Gathering can be made easier if you establish cooperations with local carpenters, logistic places or construction companies. Alternatively, look for contacts to the local recycling center

Funding Keeping things afloat

If you've got your playground up and running, financial support can often be the bottleneck to keeping things going. Get people to donate small amounts of money by showcasing how this will directly be reinvested in a specific material (a box of nails, a hammer etc) instead of abstract things. Create a crowdfunding for the development of the space. Use existing parent groups or schools as networks to organise support.
Try to find external funding. The idea of build-play can be connected to many other topics (integration, food production, architecture education, city planning, arts, cultural activities). That allows for a broad range of applications towards different foundations, government bodies or funding opportunities.

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