Designing cities with children

Tengbom, Malmö, Sweden

SDG 4: Quality educationSDG 10: Reduced inequalitiesSDG 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 16: Peace justice and strong institutionsSDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
Tengbom is an architectural firm based in Sweden and Finland. Their vision is to create innovative and timeless architecture, including ecological, social and economic sustainability. It is one of the oldest architectural firms in Europe and one of the largest in the industry. The activity ranges from urban design and landscape architecture, to interior design and project management.



The development of our society is creating a shift in citizens’ perspective of ownership. A more shared economy, such as carpools, is one example of what creates opportunities for new types of environments. Beside incorporating new environments in the urban space, architects have a responsibility to include a range of perspectives in their planning process. A key factor for successful urban planning of public spaces and the built environment within these spaces, is that the target audience feel safe. By actively thinking about the users, many uncertain factors can be eliminated. However, when designing for the users, gender equality is key. The architects at Tengbom want to shape environments where girls and boys can meet, creating places to meet across the gender and generational boundaries, blurring them out.

Good practices & solutions

One of the methods Tengbom is working with is to broaden citizen dialogues. Tengbom tries to get more actors to participate in the processes. They listen to civil dialogues, but also promote participation from stakeholders not usually targeted in traditional dialogues. One such project is Framtidskalaset, where children was invited to a creative workshop where they got to use different materials in order to visualize their future homes. Both digital tools, e.g. Minecraft, and physical tools, e.g. cardboard, foil, cotton etc. were used. This type of work with children became an inspiration for further method development of the planning practice within the firm.

Outcome & opportunities

Results from the project point out certain key elements in public spaces where girls’ and children’s needs are met, and interaction over gender and generational boarders is possible. One important element is that users should be able to make the space their own, where people are allowed to take up space, this in turn creates a feeling of ownership. For this to be happen, the spaces need to be flexible, inviting, and have an element of being“unfinished”, meaning it possible for the user to and develop the site. Flexibility is important as it attracts many different audiences to the site, hence, making the space versatile. A staircase is a good example, as a staircase can be a place to walk, sit, meet, play, watch performances, etc. The main take-away from Tengbom’s work is, henceforth, that one element must meet several purposes.

Lessons learned & recommendations

Citizen dialogues and inclusive processes that make the community an active part of the public debate as well as the urban development, fill an important purpose for the society at large. It has become an important part of the democratic process. These methods are applicable everywhere, but one must keep in mind that the local prerequisites differs.

Related SDG targets
Further reading

Photo: © Tengbom

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Project: Urban Girls Movement