Children’s Gardens Design

3 November 2015

Two days of thoughts and practice exercises at the Design and Energy Festival, focusing on children’s gardens design, thanks to the workshop Firenze en plein air, 30 October – 1 November 2015.

Florence’s Design and Energy Festival (FED), at the Leopolda railway station, got us involved in a workshop focused on children’s gardens design. The workshop engaged 15 students / new graduates / young enthusiast professionals. After I spent some words on the topic, we started our work and, and the boys intensely worked for the rest of the day, while I took on the sidekick role. Everyone was capable and with a lot of ideas.

Designing gardens: open spaces vs organized spaces

The next day the resulting ideas for children’s garden designs are presented, and the different aspects of the designs were discussed in a public talk show under the title: “A child-oriented city”.

During the talk show, an interesting debate arose with the Andrea Vannucci (council member of the municipality of Florence, with a mandate for Sport), on the different points of view on children’s gardens design. Personally, I advocate for large areas, opened to an improvised organization of the space (as happens when a child uses his t-shirt as goal post in a soccer match) and I rarely think that space should be organized for “institutional” sports, while the council member tends to favour organized spaces, also because he feels the pressure of the families, which are worried about their children bruising their knees when they fall on the lawn, which obviously isn’t as safe as artificial turf or rubber.

Regarding garden’s upkeep, everyone agreed that green areas should be more and better maintained, and especially the manteinance problem, in Italy, seems insolvable… but we are going to talk about this another time.

Talk show in the second day of the FED

Contemporary art and children’s gardens design

There has been a lot of talks revolving around the Giardino Volante (the “Flying Garden”), an interesting experiment of the Pistoia municipality funded by the Fundation “Cassa di Risparmio di Pistoia e Pescia” and coordinated by Stefania Gori. But it’s difficult to open a dialogue between contemporary artists, who often are nfar from our perceptions, at very least conceptually, and children, who are a pure fusion between mind and body. I think that garden toys, even when they are a work of art, have to be fun, and artists should create a toy and then try to play with it, to see if their experiment has been successful.

The water problem

The day after I joined another talk show together with Pietro Laureano, architect, town planner, and UNESCO consultant. We talked about water, how much we need it when it lacks, and how much damage it does when it’s too much. Interestingly, he holds as point of view that traditional practices of managing water cycle, if are applied today, might improve a lot the efficiency of water use. Agreeing with him, I put great care in underlining the importance of a new approach in of building cities, increasing the number of green roofs and rain gardens. Yet
this is also another difficult topic in Italy, mostly because decision makers, often, when presented with a new design, are unable to discern between chit-chat and professional works, and are often lead by the nose by barkers! We attempted to put a patch on this with the “Smart Urban” software, but it remains a difficult path.

A difficult path

We really had an interesting debate; children are always neglected when cities are planned. The designers usually demands that every activity they can perform has to be institutionalized, without taking in account the freedom needed to express themselves with games and creativity. It’s nice to see white walls, because they can be painted and coloured using and developing imagination and creativity. Even if talking and sharing ideas always is a key point in designing, the student’s workshop has been even more important than that, because learning a job, even if it is an intellectual one, needs time for practice, rather than just talks.

On FED website you can find every information on guests that attended, and on the topics that were studied in the workshops and in the lectures:

For more information on SmartUrban software please visit the website:

Many thanks to Sideways for video and photographic recordings.

Workshop day