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The Crayon Village: I Want To Go To There

November 14, 2009

I came across a piece about this in the Utne Reader, just as I was about to not renew my subscription, and now I am rethinking it. This new issue blew my tiny mind, and I was going to cut back on magazines, I swear, but now the world is conspiring to keep me from giving up any of them.

Anyway, In 1990, the town of Correggio in northern Italy decided to plan a new development, and since it was for families, they figured they’d give the kids a say. Kids are affected at least as much as adults by the quality of the landscape and streetscape they live in, and besides, since they eventually become adults, happy kids grow up to be adults who had happy childhoods, and the world sucks a little less. Kids also know stuff, make the world funnier, and are not hampered by convention in the way that the rest of us are. And kids, who are better than we are at having fun, had to live there, too, so why not make it fun for them? When you make a place kid-friendly you pretty much make it everybody-friendly.

coriandoline

Right angles are for suckas.

The village of Coriandoline was also explicitly influenced by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, one of my favourite books ever. The final result is not just a crayon drawing come to life, it’s like a Calvino story told by a child. The kids (and adults) are allowed to play everywhere. And the best part is that the adults like it, too, even the ones without children. By making the village about the inhabitants and not about the habitations, Coriandoline has actually helped people to be happier.

They gave the kids, not just a say, but full membership in the community of ideas that would result in this development. It wasn’t the sort of thing where they handed the kids a finished plan and asked them where they wanted the playground – no, they did it by taking kids seriously. Why not paint your house purple and then put some cool designs on it? Why don’t you have a tower at the top where you can watch for pirates, Bigfoots or dragons? I remember my parents used to scoff at the tacky houses with all their classless Christmas lights and plastic Santas, but not-so-secretly, those were the houses I wanted to live in. Living spaces can and should be fun.

Have a look around their website, and you’ll be relieved to see that it doesn’t look like a fairy tale park because one, it wasn’t only designed by kids, and two, kids are sensible enough to know that you still need to cover the basics. Entering and leaving one’s house via waterslide or ferris wheel is simply not going to be practical every day. Here’s some flickr stuff if you still want more.

It’s not just because they gave kids a go at the reins, but because by making the village about the people who would live there, and turning the traditional planning model on its head, they’ve built the place around the people, not expected the people to organise themselves around a space. It also makes me think about how so many other things are changing, becoming more interactive, and just plain better (including many forms of media), by being about the people who use them, and not about the object or space in its own right, or as an extension of whomever was the author of it.

In the same Utne Reader is some stuff about new ways of publishing and storytelling which pretty much blew my brains up, and I’ll be writing more about those over at the Chaos Thaoghaire blog in the next day or two.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sasha permalink
    November 26, 2009 10:26 am

    That is absolutely fantastic! Beautiful.

  2. Jane permalink*
    November 26, 2009 10:30 am

    Isn’t it? Also in the Utne Reader, I saw this: http://www.utne.com/Politics/Radical-Retirement-Communities-Rising.aspx

    How AWESOME is that? I want to retire and live around a bunch of other big-mouthed old ladies. I am not so afraid of wrinkles or anything like that – my age-related fears mostly relate to being infantalised by others. Or confined. Shudder.

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