Develop your playground as Ng’ambo citizen: Roleplay as a participatory design approach in Zanzibar

Develop your playground as Ng'ambo citizen: Roleplay as a participatory design approach in Zanzibar

Develop design tools and methodologies for safe and inclusive playgrounds using roleplaying

We want to enable community actors to transform their surroundings and to become an essential part of making the city. Currently, playgrounds are either non-existing or pre-fabricated, gender-biased, and uninviting. We believe children need safe spaces to play, an environment that stimulates curiosity develops skills and expresses creativity.

Participants are invited to develop a playground and discuss key themes such as design tools, methods and materials through a fun role-playing activity. This session will not only explore new ideas but will also bring to attention issues and challenges that we might encounter during our upcoming project launch.


Host: African Architecture Matters

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Erini Xanthopoulou

Erini Xanthopoulou (IRIX) graduated from the department of Architecture and Engineering at Democritus University of Thrace in Xanthi, Greece (BSc./MSc. 2008). Erini  has a long-standing experience from work in design for children. She has been involved in numerous projects which have children, their education, development and creativity in focus. Her expertise involves designing and constructing playgrounds in the Netherlands together with the local communities ( Together with Iraklis she is the founder of the architectural firm IRIX, where they are working across the fields of architecture, urbanism, interior design and product design.

Alexandra Papadaki 

Alexandra Papadaki (AAM) graduated from the department of Architecture and Engineering at Democritus University of Thrace in Xanthi, Greece (BSc./MSc. 2011) and continued her studies in Design for Sustainable Development at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden (MSc. 2014). Alexandra has worked as an external consultant in Zanzibar’s Urban Planning department for several years and is an executive associate of African Architecture Matters, a research and action center on the African built environment. She is also a partner in FBW Urbanists + Architects, with which she has worked on projects in the Netherlands, Tanzania and Uganda. Alexandra has also collaborated with UNESCO, the World Bank and other international organizations on urban planning, sustainable urban development and community engagement programs. In her free time she is active in advocating for pressing social issues in the fields of architecture and urban planning.

Franka van Marrewijk

Franka van Marrewijk (AAM) studied architecture and did a masters in Urbanism at the TUDelft, Netherlands. She wrote her thesis about public space and infrastructure in the fast-growing city of Dar es Salaam. Simultaneously she took on the opportunity to coordinate a design studio with local urban planning students as part of The World Bank Tanzania team. Currently, Franka is a partner in FBW urbanists + architects in the Netherlands, an associate of AAMatters and is working on various design and consultation projects in East Africa. She is passionate about context sensitive and environmentally conscious urban development and enthusiastic in tackling new, valuable projects and interventions.

Session Summary

‘Develop your playground as Ng’ambo citizen’ was a game style workshop session in which participants were assigned characters and asked to participate in a mock community meeting as those characters. Ng’ambo is an area in Zanzibar where it was established that there is a serious lack of playgrounds.

Participants were given the opportunity to imagine that they had a stake in developing a playground in Ng’ambo whether as a citizen, government official, or international aid worker. Cards were shared with participants such as ‘Fadhila, age 6’ or ‘government official’ which gave a description of their characters and direction on their viewpoints such as ‘wants playground to be made of recycled materials’ or ‘is interested in cost-saving’.

Participants then engaged in role play whereby they imagined their characters’ viewpoints on the following points:

How would you describe the playground?

What should the function of the playground be?

How should the playground be made?

How will the playground stay safe?

How can we incorporate relevant cultural activities into the playground?

How and who will maintain the playground?

This session thus provided participants with a fun, unique and engaging way to approach the issue of designing a playground while encouraging the consideration of multiple stakeholder interests from small children to local business owners to international aid workers.