A child experiencing a city through Urban95 virtual reality; A child experiencing a city through Urban95 virtual reality;

Urban95 VR experience, Various

Inviting decision-makers to experience a city as a young child

By 2050 70% of the global population will live in cities. The challenge for city leaders, planners, architects and innovators is to create urban environments that satisfy the needs of its inhabitants. Importantly, this includes the needs of children, for whom early experiences can have profound effects on their long term health and development, yet are too young to tell us. 

The VR experience

Arup and the Bernard Van Leer Foundation developed the Urban95 virtual reality (VR) experience to act as a mechanism for change. It aims to raise awareness about some of the common challenges currently faced by young children in cities around the world, and encourage decision-makers and thought leaders into thinking from the perspective of a 3-year-old.

To achieve this, our virtual and visualisation, acoustics, and behavioural experts developed an experience that allows users to ‘virtually’ halve in size and become 95cm tall, the average height of a 3-year-old, within a fictional piece of urban realm. 

"The wellbeing of babies, toddlers and their caregivers is the best measure of a vibrant, prosperous and healthy city. Yet, they can be invisible to city leaders as a group with specific needs" commented Ardan Kockelkoren, Urban95 Coordinator at the Bernard van Leer Foundation.

Several immersive experiences within a fictional piece of urban realm are created.

New combination of experiential technologies

The virtual reality represents a living, breathing urban environment as accurately as possible, where no two experiences are the same. The experience combines a series of filmed actors navigating an AI controlled traffic system and a real-time positional audio, creating a world users can explore at their own pace, and explore how a child perceives and interacts with its surroundings.


In collaboration with Arup’s virtual and visualisation team, we are pioneering innovative virtual reality technology that allows everyone to experience a city from the height of a 3 year old ”

Ardan Kockelkoren Ardan Kockelkoren Urban95 Coordinator, Bernard van Leer Foundation

Moving beyond the VR experience

To introduce and accompany the experience, we developed a short series of activities that could be used for events attended by thought leaders in the built environment. These allow users to be taken on a journey from the real world into virtual reality, back to life today.

A goal-oriented approach looks beyond the VR experience to shape the outcomes people take away, allowing them to fully explore the question behind the programme: “If you could experience a city from 95cm – the height of a 3-year-old – what would you change?”

This collaboration with Bernard van Leer Foundation was an incredible opportunity to use virtual technologies as catalysts for social change. Inspiring designers, planners and policy makers through experience shows the power of immersive technologies. ”

Henry Harris Henry Harris Associate, Virtual and Visualisation
Urban95 VR was launched at the Growing up in the City event, where leaders and experts in this field discussed why and how we should design cities with the youngest children in mind.