The existing sports facilities in Denmark captures the interest of boys in a greater extent than girls. Therefore, to ensure that these are attractive to girls as well, there is a need to rethink the ways of developing and designing sports facilities. GAME is currently examining girls’ use of the so called ‘Streetmekkas’ and is here sharing some of their preliminary insights and experiences, which can be used to include more girls.

“My favorite spot in the house is the stairs” says Isabelle and points towards the grand stair element, which is placed in the center of the street sports house ‘GAME Streetmekka Aalborg’, so that it connects the big hall with the dance hall on the first floor. “The view is good from here. It’s almost like a TV, because you can observe everything from here (…) and we can talk and be social together.”

Isabelle is 12 years old and she is familiar with GAME Streetmekka Aalborg, which opened its doors for the first time back in 2018. She comes here frequently alongside her girlfriends. However, she wishes that more girls would use the house.

Girls’ opinion on the arrangements of the sport facilities are essential
Designing and arranging sports facilities that are attractive to girls is an important step in strengthening girls’ participation in sports and physical activity. GAME’s own mapping shows that self-determination, a sense of ownership and a good social environment are fundamental. Therefore, it is important to design facilities that girls feel a connection towards and where they themselves can be co-creators.

Recently, GAME invited Isabelle and her four girlfriends from the local leisure club on a tour around GAME Streetmekka Aalborg followed by a short design workshop. The purpose was to gain knowledge about the girls’ use of the facility and to get some specific inputs from them regarding the arrangement of the houses: What in their opinion works well and which components need innovation?

Should have equal parts room for activity and relaxation in a social setting
During the workshop, the girls drew their version of a sports facility. The result of the drawings ended up completely different but had clear common features that point to: A general desire and need for social resting and living areas and a demand for rooms, that do not have a specific function, but which are multi-purposed.

“In my sports house there is a café with tables and chairs and there are several table footballs in the center (…), and there is a large mattress here on the side. I’ve also drawn sofas with cushions. And here there is a climbing wall and a soccer field.” This is how Isabelle explains her drawing.

In Isabelle’s visualization of a sports facility, café and resting areas are given just as much importance as the soccer field and climbing wall.

The functions of activity and living are integrated side by side. It reflects a desire for a space of movement that supports social gathering and the opportunity to engage in dialogue. For Isabelle, sports facilities are an arena of togetherness rather than an arena for sports and this is the reason why the stair element in GAME Streetmekka Aalborg is especially valued by her. It allows Isabelle to once in a while retreat from the high intensity and be intimate with her group of girlfriends. An area such as the stair element creates an openness that ensures the possibility of privacy, while the girls can observe and be inspired by the others in the room.

Need for flexible rooms that challenges the girls’ creativity
When it comes to getting girls involved, studies indicate that it can be an advantage to design more complex rooms, which can have many purposes and where structures and functions mix and overlap¹. It blurs rules and truisms and gives the opportunity to use personal ingenuity and creativity – something that is especially important in relation to girls’ motivation for participation, which fit wells with Isabelle’s idea of rooms with multiple functions.

In her drawing, Isabelle has divided the facility into sub-areas, and she has chosen to outline the different possibilities of function and activity. Her idea of a sports facility is thus multifunctional and calls for a more diverse use of the space.

In addition to this, GAME’s own experiences suggest that multifunctional rooms should contain some degree of organization, if they are to meet the needs of girls.

This is confirmed by Isabelle and her girlfriends, who think “it could be fun with some events or competitions for girls.” There is a great demand from girls for facilitation of physical activity and that is why it could be relevant to think of different events on the program, such as pop-up events or more organized activities that profitably can be held by young peers, who the girls can relate to.

For more inspiration here fra GAME and Lokale og Anlægsfonden:
DK: Sådan udvikler du aktiviteter og mødesteder, der fremmer pigers deltagelse i et aktivt fritidsliv.
ENG: 10 gode råd til at øge pigedeltagelse.

What is GAME Streetmekka?
GAME’s four Streetmekkas in Copenhagen, Esbjerg, Viborg and Aalborg are indoor facilities dedicated to street sports and street culture. The houses vary in design and arrangement and offer different activities. Common to the street sports houses is that they are based on a multifunctional and spacious concept that serves as a meeting point for positive communities across the users’ different interests and backgrounds.

[1] Rishaug, Vigdis. 2015. Et aktivt utemiljø for unge jenter. Arkitektur N nr. 3.
Hermansen, Bianca. 2013. Er der plads til piger i det aktive byrum?. Arkitektur N nr. 7.