Development of the City

Start with Children conference: if we want a sustainable future for our cities, we need to plan with the needs of children in mind


In May, Bratislava will welcome more than thirty top experts in designing child-friendly cities. They will meet with mayors of the world's major cities, mayors, professionals and the public to share their know-how at the international Start with Children conference. The experts share the view that, in order to plan sustainable and habitable cities for future generations, we need to focus on children. Their needs in the public space are also our needs, not the other way round. Mayors, architects, urban planners and climate activists will discuss this at the summit. The international conference is co-organised by the Metropolitan Institute of Bratislava (MIB) 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 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 as well, since this will help us shape the future well and responsibly," says Mayor Vallo.

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. When children feel safe in the city, it has a positive effect on their relationship towards the city where they will want to live, work and create in the future.

"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 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.

Speakers from around the world will present fascinating case studies and bring a great deal of inspiration to the conference.

Purpose of Start with Children: Bratislava Summit

The conference aims to raise awareness on planning and designing cities with children's safety and needs in mind, as well as providing a platform for city leaders and experts from all over the world to discuss challenges, share success stories, network, and exchange experiences.
The three main topics of the Summit will be sustainable urban planning, designing public spaces with children's needs in mind, and climate resilience.

Jan Gehl, Sudeshna Chatterjee, Gil Penalosa, Erion Veliaj and other leading experts will share their expertise on city design.

Jan Gehl is a Danish architect, professor and consultant in people-oriented urban design. He pioneered the introduction of observational techniques to obtain evidence of human behaviour. He is also one of the most important voices in people-first urban design. He believes that there should be a sequence in the design of cities: life, then spaces and, finally, buildings.

Sudeshna Chatterjee is originally from India and is a world-renowned urban planner, researcher, juror, educator and publishing author. She advocates the involvement of children and youth in urban planning and focuses on creating inclusive, resilient and child-friendly cities. She founded Action for Children's Environments, a research practice that focuses on how environment, development and urbanisation relate to children and young people, and on action research to improve their environments for living, learning and play. She contributed to the first evaluation of the UNICEF Working for Children in Urban Settings project and to a compendium of fifty case studies produced on behalf of UNICEF, WHO and UN-Habitat. She is currently a Programme Director at WRI-India's Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities.

Gil Penalosa is a Canadian urban planner, founder and board chair of the Canadian non-profit organization 8 80 Cities. He is also academic chair of the Norman Foster Institute for Sustainable Cities and an expert advisor to the International Society for Urban Health; he has worked for governments in more than 350 cities. He is an expert in urban design with a focus on age, health and well-being. To him, the indicator of a well-functioning city is eight-year-olds and eighty-year-olds occupying the same public space.

Erion Veliaj is a three-times mayor of Tirana, the capital of Albania. In his role, he promotes an approach that prioritises the needs of children. He believes that the transformation of cities should be guided by this principle. In dealing with disputes over public spaces, his response is to focus on children as a priority. The right way forward is to take measures that are appropriate for the youngest residents of the city.

Two-day conference to 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. On these days you can join lectures, panels, workshops and guided tours in the historical centre of Bratislava.

More information about the conference can be found at Start with Children ↗︎.