Activating a network of play spaces

Image source: Arup


The Khayelitsha informal settlement faces challenges of gang violence, environmental hazards, and long commute times that hinder children’s ability to play independently and with caregivers. Through participatory assessments and co-creation workshops with children and their caregivers, an opportunity to increase learning-through-play activities was identified. The activation of a Network of Play Spaces involves upgrading existing courtyards throughout the settlement and creating designated play spaces that target different child developmental skills through play. The intervention contributes to a local play culture that recognises the importance of play and the need for play facilitation while increasing play safety through supervised spaces.

Cape Town, South Africa

Real Play Coalition

Partner organisations:
Arup, Ikhayalami, LEGO Foundation

Children ages 0-12, Caregivers

Scale of proximity:

Built environment component:
Public space; street; creche

Design insights

The design upgrades a series of existing courtyards throughout the settlement, to form a network of designated play spaces.

The activated play spaces are linked by a playful wayfinding system of child-height signage and brightly coloured tires, which also serve to provide traffic calming for the settlement streets.

Through a co-creation workshop with LEGO Bricks participants identified opportunities to increase learning-through-play activities.

The construction process included a ‘Fun Day’ where local children became part of the creation by painting the colourful wayfinding pattern with the silhouettes of their hands.

Each play-activated courtyard is designed to engage a particular child developmental skill through play, supervised by trained play facilitator volunteers from the local community.

The refurbishment of the local creche to serve as a hub for the play network.

Implementation insights

When working on informal settlements the lack of formal land tenure might mean that local authorities will not allow the construction of permanent infrastructure, limiting the design possibilities.

Engagement is not a point in time, but a sustained relationship along the whole design process to guarantee that the local needs are met and to ensure buy in and ownership from the local community.


Intervention Type
Scales of proximity
Design guide phases

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