Children participate in designing public spaces through Minecraft.
Imran Mojib, Special Correspondent and Sohaila Ahmed, Staff Reporter
A one-of-a-kind initiative launched by Sharjah Urban Planning Council (SUPC) and Sharjah Baby Friendly Office (SBFO) – in collaboration with the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat) is encouraging children to build up Sharjah’s public realm as they play one of their favourite games ‘Minecraft.’
10-year old Muhaimin, a Grade 4 student at the International School of Creative Science, said, “We don’t have to wait to grow up before we can become designers and architects to realise our dreams. Through this exercise, I can explore the area and I can build play areas, a cycling track, an exercising spot and whatever I can imagine.”
Another Grade 3 student, 9-year old Lama said, “Minecraft is a game about placing blocks and building something. I have been playing with it for many years now. I want to build a fountain, a skating rink, have more signages and ramps for my friends with special needs and install more bins in my public space.”
Students expressed their delight at this initiative through a two-day workshop that was held on Tuesday and Wednesday for 50 participants from the International School of Creative Science.
They were introduced to the initiative, its goals, and the importance of having their say in the design and development of public spaces. A brainstorming session was held where students shared their thoughts and ideas of what they liked and disliked, and organised their priorities.
Students were then divided in teams of three, and over the course of one and a half days, built and finalised models of public spaces in Sharjah using Minecraft.
Students were seen designing fences and boundaries for greater safety, changing the landscape while revealing their priorities, pushing for greater green and shaded spaces, installing more lights and benches and smartly planning the management of solid waste.
Engaging community stakeholders in the initiative, and introducing relevant government entities to its goals, SUPC and SBF organised on Monday a full-day workshop for engineers, architects, urban planners, and professionals from Sharjah Municipality, Sharjah Directorate of Public Works, Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services and Child Safety Campaign.
Both workshops were led by Jose Chong, Urban Planning and Design Expert, and Christelle Lahoud, Architect and urban planner at UN Habitat.
The initiative is part of the Sharjah Child Friendly City Project 2019-2021 action plan, with a 5-goal focus for children and youth: That they are valued, respected and treated equally within their communities and by local authorities; they have their voice, needs and priorities heard and taken into account in public laws, policies, and decisions that affect them; they have access to basic essential services; they live in a safe, secure and clean environment; they have opportunities to enjoy family life, play and leisure.
Main stakeholders of this workshop were Sharjah Municipality, Child Safety Department, Directorate of Public Works, and Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services.
Dr Thabet Salem Al Tarifi, Director General of Sharjah Municipality, said that the emirate of Sharjah offers residents and visitors world-class services and public facilities, according to the highest international quality standards.
He pointed out that the municipality is keen to develop all the public facilities within its competence. The participation in this workshop allowed its experts to have deep insights on leading experiences and international specifications to enable them build and develop new models. The workshop generated many innovative ideas which the municipality will consider for future implementation.
Hanadi Saleh Al Yafei, Director of Child Safety Department, said, “Engaging children to create public spaces is an incredible initiative. Some of the best ideas sprout from the simplest ideas and challenges they face, that we may not be able to see from their perspective.
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