Hackney 2026

Hackney 2026: Towards a child-friendly city

A pilot-project exploring the child-friendly city concept


The Child Friendly City concept, which is being tested in a number of cities around the globe, aims to create healthy and inclusive cities where children are at the centre of decision-making. For those municipalities following the principles children form an intrinsic part of the city and are allowed space to be young, to blossom, and to become an asset to their local area.

Last year ZCD Architects was asked by Policy Studies Institute to organise a high-level, agenda-setting summit bringing together decision makers, professionals, community groups and NGOs involved in urban planning, development, transport, education and health, to discuss the opportunities for transforming Hackney into a child-friendly borough.

It explored the idea of developing a child-friendly city in the context of creating healthy, inclusive communities as part of broader policy objectives.

What do children want and need from the urban environments they live in? Are their social, mental and physical development needs being met by current models of urban development? What would an explicit focus on creating child-friendly urban environments look like and what benefits would it result in for both children and adults alike? Where could we be in ten years time and what needs to happen to deliver the vision of a child friendly city?

Held at Haggerston Community Centre in East London, the day-long event featured presentations of research into children's independent mobility, play and policy from ZCD Architects' Dinah Bornat, Ben Shaw from the Policy Studies Institute and Playing Out's Helen Forman. This was followed by international examples of intervention from Rita Wapperom of Rotterdam and Marketta Kytta of Helsinki.

In the afternoon participants explored the local area in groups, making observations and taking photographs, collecting and sharing them on an Instagram feed set up for the event. On their return they presented ideas to the audience, including the Mayor of Hackney, about how the spaces they had seen could become more child friendly. 

ZCD Architects is now continuing to develop the idea of a Child Friendly City with Hackney Council.

ZCD Architects_Hackney 2026