Arup and the Bernard van Leer Foundation partner to improve the lives of young children

Ria Patel Ria Patel UKIMEA Press Office,London
11 February 2019

Arup and the Bernard van Leer Foundation today announce a new partnership which will combine their design and planning expertise and knowledge of early childhood development to help improve the lives of children in cities and vulnerable urban environments, such as informal settlements and refugee camps globally.

The two organisations are collaborating to produce a guide to better enable designers, planners, city authorities and development agencies to design and implement child-friendly initiatives in vulnerable urban environments, which will also deliver benefits to wider communities. The guide will target the challenges and aspirations of young children (0-5 years old), their caregivers and pregnant women. It will inform a set of tangible and measurable standards that city governments can adopt to create urban settings that work better for families and children. The guide is due to be published in June 2020.

To bring communities together we need to create places to live, learn, work and play that can be enjoyed by people of any age. Places designed for urban childhoods are the bellwethers for healthy cities. Despite the importance of early years to our personal and social development the experience of 0-5 year olds has largely been ignored in the design of our cities. But if we design and plan from their perspective, 95cm off the ground, the environments we create can include and bring together people of all ages. ” Jerome Frost Jerome Frost Director

For the partnership, Arup has developed a new virtual reality (VR) tool, which allows users to experience a living, breathing urban environment from a child’s perspective at 95cm tall, the average height of a healthy three year old. It aims to raise awareness of the common challenges faced by young children in cities and trigger decision makers into implementing child-friendly policies. 

The guide and VR experience will support the Bernard van Leer Foundation’s ‘Urban95’ initiative, which asks a bold, but simple question: “If you could experience the city from 95 centimetres - the height of a 3-year-old - what would you change?”. 

The launch event will take place on Monday 11 February at Arup’s London office. True to its vision, the launch has children as a central part of the day. A workshop, led by the LEGO Group, will give children between 0-5 years old (with their caregivers) and children between 5-12 years old the opportunity to plan and design their own perfect city. Results will be showcased during the evening’s event, which will also allow adult attendees to immerse themselves in the new VR experience.   

Photo: Courtesy of Casa de la Infancia Photo: Courtesy of Casa de la Infancia
Photo: Courtesy of Casa de la Infancia

The planning, design and management decisions that cities make have a huge impact on babies, toddlers and the people who care for them – an impact that lasts a lifetime. We’re excited to continue to scale our work to change the way families with young children live, play, interact and move through cities by partnering with Arup, a global thought leader and trusted partner to cities around the world. ” Michael Feigelson Executive Director, Bernard van Leer Foundation

About the Bernard van Leer Foundation

The Bernard van Leer Foundation is an independent foundation working worldwide to inspire and inform large-scale action to improve the health and well-being of babies, toddlers and the people who care for them.