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MFA Child Culture Design

Amelia Dray

The Loose-Parts Public Bench


The Loose-Parts Public Bench explores how children challenge the boundaries that limit their power and opportunity to be democratic citizens. By exposing the ways in which the planning of our cities regulate children’s lives, play, and realms of influence, the bench aims to activate experimental play at the existing boundaries of playgrounds, gardens, and schoolyards. The bench is designed to attach to a chain link fence and, by de-constructing into loose parts, aims to nurture children’s skillful ability to experiment in public space and reappropriate public infrastructure. The outcome aims to amplify a child-led critique of the design of public space to help prompt reflection on adult-led design decisions and to explore how adults can support children as the active, experimental makers of culture they are. The bench is a material outcome of a wider project, The Doorstep Realm, which aims to explore how we can use processes of design to actively listen to how children engage with public space as a way to support a more equitable democracy and use of public space for all. The project hosted a range of participatory workshops with children, where we explored the space and boundaries around their homes and schools using map-making, drawing and loose parts play. As adults, we do not hold the capacities or the imaginations to fully understand the wisdoms of childhood, and so, this project aims to explore ways we might support children’s positioning in society as active and influential democratic citizens.