What does better look like?

Key to making space work for girls is talking to teenage girls, to understand their take on their local spaces, the barriers they face to enjoying these spaces and involving them in the design process. So, there isn’t an “off the shelf” solution. But we’re often asked for images of what might make feel girls more welcome.

One answer is swings…. and swings are great

But we wanted to suggest other alternatives.  

So, based on our research, the work that has been done outside the UK (mostly Vienna and Malmo) and with the fantastic support of two M.Arch students from Newcastle University, we’ve created some images to get people talking about what might be found in spaces designed with girls in mind.

Hanging Around: inspired by Rösens Rodda Matta, Malmo, the first park to be designed by and for girls age 16-24. They specifically wanted gym bars – high enough to hang from, swing round, lean against, lurk around, but not so tall that they become a magnet for young men wanting to do chin ups

Still in the gym: outdoor gym facilities tend to be dominated by young men. But we have heard rumours of a park (in north Bristol perhaps?) where a social circle of recumbent bikes has been taken over by the teenage girls because they appreciate the chance to chat and exercise at the same time.

Lessons from Vienna and Glasgow: They experimented with what made girls linger in Einsielder Park, Vienna and found that hammocks worked. It turns out that the hammocks in Hayburn Park in Glasgow are also full of teenage girls.

Dividing a MUGA: all the research shows that if there’s single pitch in a MUGA, the boys will dominate it. So dividing up so there is not just a pitch but also a less prescriptive space gives girls a better chance to play. The divider can be whatever you want: it’s a goal, a shelter, a place for Tik Tok dances. Oh and we put seats in it as well…

Social Seating: Girls like to face each other when they chat so traditional park benches along a path means someone ends up sitting on the floor, and benches lined up to watch the action on the MUGA aren’t great either. Simple picnic benches like the ones in the image above create a more social space; or more creatively, seating that echoes a fair ground waltzer…

For when it is too hot or too rainy: Kind & Samenleving have done some fantastic research with young teens in Belgium; a group of girls were sad that “their” shelter had fallen into disrepair; they imagined some wonderful mushroom shapes to replace it, which inspired this look… and the shelters are designed to collect rain water too.

Performance in the Park: back to Rösens Rodda Matta, Malmo, where the girls designed a stage, which has been great for performances (formal/informal) and used by the community for fitness classes etc; the tree log stools provide social space and double up as stepping stones.

Up high: as lock down lifted there were a few (dry-ish) months where teenagers could meet in groups of six but couldn’t go into each others houses. So they had to be creative about where they could hang out. And we noticed how many could be seen at the top of climbing frames. It turns out that being high up is fun. So some (non prescriptive) high up hang out places, with scramble net for access.

And if you want to use these as talking points for a consultation exercise, we’ve put them all together in a handy printable document which you can download below.