Not out of the way, in the way
One of the simple beauties of our Pop Up Parks is that they are so easy to use and understanding them is immediate. The key ingredient of our usability is our location: we’re not out of the way, we’re in the way.
We initially thought disrupting people’s journeys could be a negative thing, as who would have time to navigate ramps and running tracks, listen to park sounds and walk on stilts whilst on their way to the supermarket? But our thinking was wrong. We became a very welcome addition to parents’ everyday journeys that usually lack playful interactions.
Whilst knee-deep in the frantic and joyous frenzy of our Pop Up Parks, we have been able to witness two clear things about what we are doing:
1. Children and adults alike are magnetised to our Pop Up Parks!
2. Pop Up Parks facilitate multiple meaningful interactions.
We consciously filed away these two observations during our Pop Up Park at the Unwin and Friary estates (just off the Old Kent Road in Peckham). Not long after we had set up, the park had attracted a group of parents, carers and children. We were able to see the magnetic pull happen in real time as mums with buggies, seemingly on a set trajectory would quickly veer off course towards us and change mode, from pedestrian to adventurer. Many were also swayed by their children, who pointed in our direction like the captain of a ship setting a new course for a strange new island. They skipped toward us with quizzical smiles, and with ease crossed our very subtle threshold of street to park.
Our thoughts were further strengthened when a man yelled at us from a distance “What time are you here till?” with his mobile pressed to his ear, and as he walked away we could hear him relay “They’re here until 4 – you should come down.” There was no doubt that we had caused a buzz of excitement.
The buzz naturally evolves from curiosity to multiple meaningful interactions. In all our parks we have seen parents and carers playing and exploring with their children, children helping others to pot up heather plants and race each other on our running track, and adults chatting to one another as they sit on benches and watch the spectacle. This all happens despite the fact that our parks make no demands on any of its users, so all actions and interactions are self-initiated.
We came away from Peckham feeling that it was a great success. One of the parents had told us her worries of her child starting school were quelled after watching him make friends in our park. “It’s great to see him being so confident with other children.” she beamed.
For us, it’s heartening to know that Pop Up Parks can facilitate not only joy but more deeper experiences for both children and parents.