UOC leads on a New European Bauhaus pilot in Barcelona to co-create inclusive urban spaces with and for children with autism

The project will create new tools and methods for designing sustainable and inclusive play areas for and with children with ASD and their families

Photo: La Clariana, Glòries park © Ajuntament de Barcelona.

T-Factor partner Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) is leading the innovative project ASD Publics: activating spaces with neurodivergent publics, an initiative aimed at providing new solutions to create more inclusive urban spaces for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. The Barcelona City Council, the Global Institute of Neurodevelopment Integrated Care (IGAIN) and LEMUR urban emergency laboratory are also partners at the project, which is being funded by the European Union through The New European Bauhaus programme.

From the  Urban Transformation and Global Change Laboratory (TURBA) at the UOC’s Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), they explain that ” despite the progress that has been made in this area in recent years, children with autism still face difficulties in using and enjoying urban public spaces. The lack of more inclusive spaces means that their risk of social exclusion is more acute, and that these children may miss out on the opportunity to play outside. Various studies have shown the multiple sensory motor, emotional and social benefits of contact with nature among children with ASD, as it reduces their anxiety levels and enhances their sensory skills.”  Blanca Calvo, the principal researcher of the project, is one of the members of T-Factor as part of UOC’s project team. She is involved in the Circular and Collaborative Economy T-Lab and was one of the researchers and authors of the Advanced Case Studies Portfolio and the T-Factors Pilots report. 

The project explores innovative design strategies that link inclusive play with nature and aesthetics with the objective of equipping urban practitioners with methods and tools for designing sustainable play areas for and with children with ASD and their families. To do so, four workshops will be held with small groups of people from this community to test and progressively improve the project’s performative co-creation methodology that provides an embodied experience of space involving experiments with the body, play and other creative ways of exploring multi-sensoriality and connectivity with space through aesthetic appreciation. These will be held in a green space at Glories Square, one of the flagship Nature Based Solutions transformations in Barcelona city centre. In these workshops, ephemeral installations will be set up where children will be invited to freely play and experiment. The observation of sensorial and psychomotor responses as well as their choices of specific materials and spaces will offer very valuable information about their play and space preferences that the project is aiming to capture.

The project employs an interdisciplinary approach that conjoins the perspectives of architects,  urban planners and designers, experts in social sciences, education, health and the arts, with those of children with ASD and their families. The goal is to reimagine and transform play areas in cities in order to provide design guidelines to increase the potential of inclusive play and nature-based solutions in public space that can be implemented in other cities or countries in Europe based on the experience in Barcelona.

The project began in July and will last until December, with workshops and discussion sessions to evaluate the co-creation methodology being held in October and November respectively. The project results will be made public in two presentations in January 2023. 

ASD Publics partners

Urban Transformation and Global Change Laboratory (TURBA) at the UOC’s Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3).

Barcelona City Council, through its Ecology, Urban Planning, Infrastructures and Mobility Office, working with the Municipal Institute for People with Disabilities (IMPD) and the Institute of Childhood and Adolescence.

Global Institute of Neurodevelopment Integrated Care (IGAIN), a leading Spanish centre in the diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. 

LEMUR urban emergency laboratory, an international interdisciplinary association that fosters ecological and social transitions through educational and research initiatives, integrating architecture and environmental engineering.

Supported by

ASD Publics: activating spaces with neurodivergent publics is an EIT Community New European Bauhaus project supported by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union. The initiative was presented as part of the European Commission’s call entitled Co-creation of public space through citizen engagement of the EIT New European Bauhaus Community – a campaign that falls within the objectives of the European Green Deal approved in 2020.