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Children and playground complement each other. However, a majority of children in India never get an opportunity to play in a safe environment of a playground or a space dedicated to them in their community to play freely. At the Adda Experiment, we identify, inspire & collaborate with communities to make it easier for all children and their families to get the right kind of ‘play’ they need to grow up happy, aware and resilient.

The eureka moment for Adda Experiment

A few kilometres to the east of Delhi, more than a few actually, nestled in the Himalayan mountain ranges lies a magical place, Gangtok, that completely changed the perception of a city in my mind.  The spectacular hills around, the crystal clear waterways, the dense greens and the divine morning prayers, all of this is bound to make one fall in love with the place. However, the most fascinating thing about the city of Gangtok was the curfew on vehicles in the main shopping area after 5 pm. 

Credit : The Adda Experiment

Being a child myself back then, nothing in the world could have been better than having the freedom to run on a street with no cars and biking my way around people, using them as traffic cones.

Of course, now that I am much older and much wiser, I hope, there are other things I’d enjoy about the place, perhaps the chance to catch up with the essentials of life, being at peace with myself, catching up with my peers, all things a city should provide. It made me realise how public spaces can change your experience in a place and why having the freedom and opportunity to enjoy life facilitated by design of cities should be a priority in urban design.

Architecture has the power of increasing or decreasing feelings of security, stretch or limit boundaries, promote or reduce mobility, and improve or damage health. It can remove real and imagined barriers between communities and foster understanding and generosity of spirit.

Why have nots must have

There is no denying the fact that as much as one would like to harp on about the utopian dream of an egalitarian society, there exists a clear divide between various sections of the society in terms of class, and this distinction becomes more vivid when viewed between members of the informal sections and the rest of the society. Many architects have tried to confine the range of people that they design for, either by neglecting the people who fall under minorities or by designing it to fit their own shape. 

A society’s overall happiness goes hand in hand with the happiness of the weakest sections. Unfortunately, most cities have not prioritized their weakest sections – children, older adults and the poor, in their planning and design. It is the responsibility of the architects and designers to make the cities more accessible to these vulnerable sections and better equipped to cater to their needs. 

A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo.

Desi demographics

India is home to 364 million impoverished people. It also has the largest population of children in the world, accounting for 472 millions of India’s total population (Census India, 2011). With booming populations, it becomes critical to understand how the benefits of urbanization and resulting public spaces can be shared more equitably amongst all sections of the society. 

India poses a unique situation in terms of the quality of public spaces it has to offer and the population it caters to. There is a shortage of such public spaces in general, especially when it comes to urban poor communities. 

Fig. 1: A closer look at India (Source: The Adda Experiment)

It is a well-known fact amongst urban theorists that public spaces are essential for healthy urban living, for creating a sense of ownership within the city and for economic growth. Both the surrounding environment and the quality of public spaces determine how people use these spaces. If these spaces are attractive, safe and accessible to everyone, they can inspire a diverse range of activities and uses. Public spaces are not just recreational spaces, they also act as canvases for public expression.

What’s our deal?

Taking the architectural thesis forward of one of the founders, “The Adda Experiment” was started, which is an initiative focusing on understanding the importance of play and playful public spaces and providing it to all people. Being architects and designers has made us conscious of the effect design has on humanity and the need to use it to make a positive change. 

As the urban population is increasing each day, children are rapidly becoming users of the urban environment. Providing multifunctional playable space beyond the playground can enable everyday freedoms and create a public realm for all ages to enjoy together.

Our primary objective is to create a better environment for children as well as adults – an environment giving them due respect and a healthy life, and providing opportunities for them to relax and take a break from the rut of city life. Through our project, we aim to work with communities across various spectrums, conduct studies and surveys, spread awareness and create more interactive and inviting community-led interventions across the city.

We hope to redefine and amalgamate the concept of play spaces and public spaces and breathe much-needed life into everyday physical spaces by reclaiming forgotten, blighted or avoided spaces. This includes isolated corners, open spaces in slums and leftover spaces beneath underpasses or along streets, spaces which can be relooked at as community assets and social places.

Fig. 2: A game designed by The Adda Experiment as part of the community engagement program (Source: The Adda Experiment)

We hope to redefine and amalgamate the concept of play spaces and public spaces and breathe much-needed life into everyday physical spaces by reclaiming forgotten, blighted or avoided spaces. This includes isolated corners, open spaces in slums and leftover spaces beneath underpasses or along streets, spaces which can be relooked at as community assets and social places.

Fig. 3: Community Engagement Program (Credits: Yash Rathore)

Care enough to share

In contrast to adopting an attitude of stark discrimination against particular groups of the population, tactics and strategies for designing public spaces in informal settlements can be addressed and solved by relevant design interventions, the lack of which in the present is probably the problem itself. This indifferent approach to design is only contributing further to the existing hostility towards the underprivileged people.

Public spaces are central to the dynamics of city life: they are meeting spaces, and the perceptions that people have of these areas are directly related to how they use them. The importance of such spaces in the lives of every citizen and the culture they exhibit need to be identified and such cohabited spaces deserve to be designed in a way that provides the utmost satisfaction to its user.

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