Children and Youth

Start with Children: in May, Bratislava will become an international centre for discussion on creating future cities for children


At the end of May, Bratislava will become the centre of an international debate on creating safer, greener and more child-friendly cities for two days. More than thirty experts in this field will give lectures, lead workshops and hold panel discussions on planning sustainable cities to be habitable for future generations. To achieve this, it is important to prioritise the needs of children in urban planning. Mayors, architects, urban planners and advocates from all over the world will discuss this at Start with Children, an international summit organised by the Metropolitan Institute of Bratislava and the City of Bratislava.

"Public space is one of the most important aspects of improving the quality of life in the city for me, both as a mayor and an architect. The physical space doesn’t just affect how we feel in it, but also how we behave. If children feel welcome and safe, it becomes more open, welcoming and safer for everyone. I believe it is essential to plan the city's development with children's needs in mind, since this will help us shape the future well and responsibly," says Matúš Vallo, Mayor of Bratislava and speaker at the summit. The idea of creating cities for children, thus becoming cities for all, is the key topic of the conference, aimed at designing child-friendly cities focusing on improving safety.

"International conventions on the rights of the child speak not only about safety in public space, but also about the right to play and freedom of movement for children. Taking children's needs into account and involving them in the process of creating public spaces helps us shape an active generation with a strong environmental attitude. In so doing, we can create a city that is resilient, responsive and compassionate through the lens of one of the city’s most vulnerable groups. I am delighted that Bratislava will be hosting this important debate which can inspire us with approaches from world experts," says Petra Marko, Director of MIB, who will also join Start with Children. "Throughout history, we can find examples where the needs of children have been prioritised in urban design. Take the Netherlands in the 1960s - cars collided with children playing in the street and this prompted parents to mobilise. In response to their pressure, the 'Woonerf' or 'live streets' were created. When we found a way to typologise the streets that allowed a three-year-old to grow up independently and freely, to play outside, we also created a quiet, safe space for people with disabilities or elderly people who don't travel far but crave social contact. Places designed prioritising children have been shown to be ultimately inclusive, beneficial for mental health and welcoming for all. Systematically bringing children's needs to the centre of urban planning is a new approach and one that we will be discussing in depth at the Summit,” says Simon Battisti, Summit Content Manager.

Start with Children: the Bratislava Summit will bring an inspiring programme and supporting activities

Over two days at the end of May, you will have the opportunity to attend lectures, panels, workshops and tours in the historical centre of Bratislava. The three main areas of focus for the Summit will be: sustainable urban planning, child-friendly public spaces and climate resilience.

The first day will focus on topics such as the climate crisis, adaptation to extreme weather, thriving neighbourhoods and society, and play and everyday freedom. These will be discussed by Gil Peñalosa, Canadian urbanist, founder and chair of 8 80 cities, Erion Veliaj, three-time mayor of Tirana, the capital of Albania, and Anna Dworakowska, architect, urban designer and climate director at Capita Ankita Chachra, architect, researcher and founder of Ludo Meghan Talarowski studio, co-founder and director of Polish Smog Alert.

On the second day, areas such as urban design with children, participation, working with neighbourhoods, the city and caring communities, children's relationship to nature, children's leadership towards activism, children and mobility will be addressed and discussed by Sudeshna Chatterjee, internationally renowned urban planner and researcher, Jan Gehl, Danish architect and professor, Amanda Burden, director at Bloomberg Associates, and Petra Marko, director of the Metropolitan Institute of Bratislava.

As part of the programme, a Play Zone will be opened, which is part of the MIB's project City for Children. There will also be workshops for children on urban development, sustainability and environment

Introducing other internationally renowned speakers at the Summit

The international conference will bring together experts, among others Anna Symington-Maar, co-founder of Teach for Slovakia and director of the inclusive kindergarten Rozmanita, Atsani Ariobowo, director of Child and Youth Health for the FIA Foundation, Skye Duncan, director of the Global Designing Cities initiative, Bronwen Thornton, Director of the Walk21 Global Network, Kamila Kadzidlowska, Member of Our Kids Climate Network, Joe Waters, Co-Founder and Director of Capita, Dinah Bornat, Director of ZCD Architects, Beverly Barnett-Jones, Director of Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, Maya Mailer, Co-Founder of Mothers Rise Up, who will share their expertise, as well as the Mayor of Bratislava, Matúš Vallo, and Petra Marko, Director of the Metropolitan Institute of Bratislava

Dinah Bornat is a director at ZCD Architects, as well as an internationally renowned architect and respected researcher. She has co-authored numerous publications on architecture, planning and designing thriving and sustainable public spaces involving children.

Bronwen Thornton is a director at Walk21, a global network focused on walking in cities. She is one of the leading experts in this field with over twenty years’ experience in strategic transport planning, community and political engagement and policy and project development focusing on fair and sustainable transport.

Maya Mailer is an advocate for protecting the planet and co-founder of Mothers Rise Up. This organisation recently conducted a dance protest performance directed at Lloyd's, the largest insurer of fossil fuels. In addition, she is co-managing the Our Kids Climate initiative.

Beverley Barnett-Jones is a director of the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory and a member of the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood advisory group. She has 25 years' experience as a social worker in the UK.

The two-day conference will be held in Bratislava's Old Market Hall

The event will take place on 28 - 29 May 2024 in the Old Market Hall in Bratislava. Over these days you will have the opportunity to attend lectures, panels, workshops and guided tours in the historical centre of Bratislava. More information about the conference can be found at ↗︎.