Slides, a chocolate fountain and a petting zoo: children design their own Dublin

Project at Temple Bar’s Ark asked young people to re-imagine a city for themselves

The ARK cultural centre in Dublin asked children to create a model to represent what they would like to see in a dedicated children’s quarter. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

An entire shop dedicated to Harry Potter wands and T-shirts, a petting zoo, a Willy Wonka Museum and a new look Trinity College facade complete with a wig and a chocolate fountain were some of the ideas conceived by children asked to re-imagine what Dublin’s College Green could look like.

There was no sign of a slow moving Luas carriages, traffic jams, drunken stag parties spilling out of Temple Bar or fleets of angry taxi drivers anywhere.

Instead the new Children’s Quarter designed over four days last week by young people at the Ark in Dublin’s Temple Bar was a colourful playground full of slides and zip wires and ball pits. And a sanctuary for pigeons.

Ideas for what a new look College Green could be were sent in by children from across the country with the actual models made by a group of 20 who took part in an architectural camp at the children’s centre over four days last week.

“I don’t know what it is about the pigeons, the kids seem to love them,” said Al Gleeson who worked with the children. He was referencing the glass-domed centre for the birds that the children thought should sit on top of a new look building on the former Ulster Bank site.

“They weren’t so fond of the seagulls mind you,” he added, pointing to signs warning those birds not to be messing or acting the maggot. “I’m not sure why that would be the case.”

‘Absence of barriers’

Ark director Aideen Howard said the project sought to “put children to the fore” and to make them visible in the city centre.

“That is what we are here for really. One of the things that strikes me about what the kids have designed is the absence of barriers to any of these fantastic ideas. I think too often adults immediately put obstacles in the way of any ideas they might come up with. We are always looking for the problems.”

Sisters Grace (11) and Fraoch McSweeney (10) from Cabra, Dublin with part of the model they made during a workshop on designing a Dublin for young people. Photograph: Mark Stedman.
Sisters Grace (11) and Fraoch McSweeney (10) from Cabra, Dublin with part of the model they made during a workshop on designing a Dublin for young people. Photograph: Mark Stedman.

She said that children and families are generally not considered when it comes to town planning and much of the focus is on transport and commerce. How urban spaces will actually be used by people - particularly children - gets forgotten, Ms Howard said.

“Another interesting thing is the number of slides that the kids have put in. That tells me that they see travel as fun and not as a chore. They have also suggested that we accommodate different forms of transport from flying to scooting and rollerblading”.

Sam Gibson, who was involved in the camp, said he would like to see a new look Dublin city centre include a building made of Lego “and a Titanic Museum” while fellow camper Jessica O’Shea said if she was in charge of town planning, a stage where people could dance would be front and centre.

She also called for a lot more playgrounds and art galleries “and a place for people who would like to eat lots of sweets”. She expressed the view that there are “too many pubs in the city”.