Aminah Ricks

Aminah Ricks

Founder & Creative Director
Helping children reimagine their city

Helping Children Reimagine the City

A city is most fairly judged by how it invites and supports children into its urban fabric.

Children see and experience our cities at shorter heights, with fresher eyes and absorbent minds.  It is our jobs as city planners and adults to incorporate a child’s perspective into our thinking about the cityscape.  Future Planners* (a company supported by Emerging City) began conducting workshops last spring, with that very intention, to ignite a passion in young children to reimagine the city.

The motivation of Future Planners is to reverse the current trend whereby some politicians and planners think of children as an added consideration in city planning, and to instead utilize a youth oriented point of view, blended into city development.  Moreover, Future Planners believes that children can become proponents of change, which would benefit everyone.  Any metropolitan area that continually balances the considerations of its city-zens of all ages, is a better and safer place for all.

So, what happens when children funnel up to adults their creative thoughts and ideas on urban interventions?  Future Planners conducted a workshop “Plan a Playground” at The Coop School in Brooklyn which motivated students to use analysis, observation and idea generation to create an ideal playground in 3-D models and a mural.


And final work product was not the focus, rather it was the creation of orienting children to city planning.  Further, the goal was to have children consider “for whom” and “for what” when designing a public space, for residents to use all year round.  The children demonstrated great depth and agency at using empathy for others when thinking of playgrounds, from adults who would be supervising their children to pets, these students showed a wide range of brainstorming design benefits for the public realm.

Child-centered city planning is not a new concept.  La Citta’ di Bambini (The City of Children) is another like-minded association, based in Rome, Italy.  They hold fast to “a political motivation: work[ing] toward a new governmental philosophy of the city, engaging the children as parameters and as guarantors of the needs of all citizens. Not, therefore, a greater commitment towards an increase in the resources and services for children, but towards a different and better city for all, so that the children too can live an experience as autonomous and participating citizens.”

Helping our children to “see”, “read” and “feel” our cities, helps them feel a part of their community, reinforces their esteem in that their thoughts are crucial and heard and finally, shows us the adults, the missing piece to ensure our cities are healthy, safe, eco-friendly and joyful places to live.

*From workshops and after school enrichment classes, to tailored STEAM curriculum, Future Planners helps children feel considered and capable of having a tangible impact in the evolution of our cities.  For further information contact Future Planners.


Photo Credit: Aminah Ricks #CitiesByKids4All

5 Tips to Help Your Child “See” Their City

5 Tips to Help Your Child “See” Their City

Increase you child’s awareness of the city that surrounds them with these 5 tips from

As you go through the city with your son or daughter, try these helpful suggestions which aim to open their minds to thinking about community and their important role in the city fabric:

(1) Encourage your children to see the city as theirs, an entity in which they
should give a critical eye, as to what works and what does not and consider
how things can be improved?

(2) Think about what they “see” and how they “feel” as they move through a neighborhood, from the widths of the sidewalks (infrastructure)
to the speed of the flow of car traffic (transportation methods), how is it

(3) Introduce concepts of high and low residential density, a high-rise
and a brownstone are different, why?

(4) Reveal that city elements like “urban furniture” from bus stop
benches to bike racks are designed but see if they can discover and
point out un-designed urban furniture that they see in their

(5) Demonstrate that thinking about their neighborhood and city can
be fun and cool because they become experts on determining what makes
great shared public spaces.

Sign up for a tip of the month at


Photo Credit: London Scout

Imagine this street, without cars…

How would our neighborhoods change if a majority of the streetscape were not used primarily as storage for cars?


Children playing a game of pick-up soccer

Older people strolling by and sitting on stoops

Couples passing on bikes

Toddlers free to walk and fall without worry

Benches full of teenagers gossiping and giggling

Someone reading a book or a magazine

If we want our streets to be ALIVE we have to put people first and reconsider that instead of being co-opted as parking lots for rarely used cars, they could be thriving centers of city life.

Aminah Ricks

A city that encourages it city-zens to walk is a winner

The hillside town of Spoleto, Italy is a challenge to walk.  Imagine beautiful continuous, steep hills throughout the historical center.

As residents began to abandon the hassles of parking in the older town for the new malls in the peripheral areas, the Spoleto city planning department went to work brainstorming ideas to invite folks of all ages to visit, shop and live in “centro storico”.

So what did they do to motivate residents and tourists to walk those steep hills?  The city invested significant funds into creating alternative mobility, which dis-incentivizes cars and motivates priority for pedestrians:

  • created multiple underground parking right outside of town with a connected moving walking, protective from the elements of weather
  • developed a system of these protective moving walkways, allowing residents in town to traverse one level of the city to another
  • designed well place maps to indicate walking paths, directions and distances between sights and streets
  • built a beautiful, extended outdoor escalator system, placed alongside the ancient walls of the city, providing breathtaking views

From 8 to 80 years old, anyone can access and enjoy this Umbrian town by leaving the car behind and going for a walk.



Photo credit: Aminah Ricks

The Art & Soul of Placemaking

Urban art transforms, it adds the color and life to an often muted city.  It awakens our sense of whimsy or provokes thought.  Combined with open space and street furniture, the formula for placemaking is complete.



Photography Credit: Aminah Ricks

Solar + Bike Power

Solar power + Bike sharing =  Sweet Home Chicago!

For the future health of our cities and its residents, solar power and urban cycling are a mighty combination to be imitated, over and over, across the globe, until instead of a trend it is the reality.


Photo Credit: Aminah Ricks

The hidden city.

Each layer is created by days and years, people and movements, politics and community bumping and flowing into and through each other like jazz notes – the city is built in moments, it develops, matures, ages, becomes derelict and is reborn in some small way everyday, through the air, through the streets, through the city-zens.

Aminah Ricks, 2017, Nolita NYC




Photo Credit: Aminah Ricks

Ground Level Design in Belize and Brooklyn

Ground level design should be thoughtful – it sets the tone of our collective experience as we move through the streets, especially when walking.  It can provide an invitation or a barrier.

An opening towards the streets becomes clear with the use of transparent materials such as glass, or a hurdle can be created when the view is meet with something opaque like metal.  Off course when the climate is tropical like in Belize, there is no need for a glass enclosure.

From retail to restaurants and residential spaces, what our eyes see and our senses detect should be considered in ground level design as we think about the future of our cities and its city-zens.

Photography Credit: Aminah Ricks

Home sweet home

This “highrise” in Belize is designed to protect this home from flooding in the rainy season. Additionally, it has a cistern to capture rain water and solar panels. This sustainable home takes advantage of it’s warm climate.

highrise bk

Density rules in popular Brooklyn neighborhoods. The increase in residents dictates the creation of highrise living. As developers race to create more housing, city planning has to play catch up to facilitate additional public services and infrastructure.

lowrise belize

Off the grid in Belize but outfitted with everything one needs from a kitchen, laundry facilities and even a bike for running errands.

lowrise bk

The beloved brownstones in Brooklyn are revered worldwide, their simple charm and historic relevance make them a sought after purchase or rental.


Photography Credit:  Aminah Ricks

Ground-up Transportation
In Belize hitch hiking is mainstream and a very accepted carpooling system of sharing transportation in a country where most do not own cars

In Belize hitch hiking is mainstream and a very accepted carpooling system of sharing transportation in a country where most do not own cars



Cycling, good for the health of our cities and ourselves

In Brooklyn cycling is an easy and agile way to get around, good for the health of our cities and ourselves

Refurbished school buses serve as public transportation in Belize

Refurbished school buses serve as public transportation in Belize

Subways are the fastest and most efficient way to move thousands, daily through our cities

Subways are the fastest and most efficient way to move thousands, daily through Brooklyn and NYC


Photography Credit:  Aminah Ricks

1 2 3 4 6
Elevating City Life