4. Children and the Urban Environment

Yes, in My Neighborhood

Joseph Juhasz, Denver, CO
Robert Flanagan. Denver, CO

We report on the 
rehabilitation of a facility 
owned and operated by the 
Colorado Coalition for the 
Homeless. This was a joint 
undertaking by the University 
of Colorado and the Coalition. 
The facility is housed in a 
former Shul and houses the 
Coalition’s most recalcitrant 
clients. The shell of the 
building is a great historic 
significance—its interior was 
badly compromised. It is in a 
transitional gentrifying 
neighborhood which is part of 
the city’s current development 
plans. 
The purpose of the 
intervention is to make a 
strong, unambiguous 
architectural statement to the 
effect that the inhabitants of 
this building are normal 
people. The effect of radically 
stating in architectural 
language that the homeless 
belong in the city has its 
greatest impact on children 
and youth. Cities cannot be 
livable—children will never 
prosper in the city if the 
homeless are not worthy of a 
good place to live. Yes, in my 
neighborhood.
 The narrative of the past—the 
linkage of the narrative of the 
future and of the present to 
the past—is the key to the 
proper socialization of 
children. In architectural 
language this is a gesture 
well beyond historic 
preservation—it is nothing 
about preservation and 
everything about linkages and 
narratives. An architect does 
not write the narrative for a 
homeless person or anyone 
else—but in writing the 
building there is an invitation 
to the homeless and the 
homeful to participate with the 
architect in enacting the 
narrative. The private and the 
public contrast--as they 
interpenetrate.

Designing the City for Play: Safe, Everyday Places for Children

Isaac Williams, College Park, MD
Catherine Stratton Treadway, College Park, MD

The pace of life today does not often allow parents to play outdoors with their children, and many parents fear allowing their children to play outside unattended. In addition, many communities struggle to provide the resources to build and manage purpose-built playgrounds. Whether in the suburbs or larger cities, it is not hard to find an under-utilized playground.

However, there is little question that play is important to the physical, intellectual, and social development of children. Therefore the question of everyday access to safe, stimulating, and social places to play is vital to sustaining healthy urban communities.

An investigation of recent literature and careful observation of children at play asks the questions: Where do children really play in the city? How can the city be made more safe and appropriate for play?

The authors find that many families play at purpose-built playgrounds as many adults exercise at the gym – as a planned, scheduled and supervised activity. The same-ness of much off-the shelf equipment contributes to an experience that often lacks variety and spontaneity. The authors observe that children do play on the street-front and in public places throughout the city; this play seems rich and varied despite the lack of purpose-built equipment. Building on design elements observed in “street-front play” over the course of this research, the authors will propose a set of guidelines and make recommendations for designing safe, appropriate, cost-conscious, everyday spaces for play that support the intellectual and physical development of children.

City of Discovery

Dennis Kilper, Blacksburg, VA 

The CITY OF DISCOVERY is a city prepared for the child, but not overly protective, nor shielding against uncontrolled discovery, Children need sometimes press the edges of their existence—to make unanticipated findings that change and reform one’s life—to discover the unimaginable that makes a life extraordinary. I fear the idea of a Child Friendly City will be one planned for willful control of children, that to protect them from accident and abuse, will shield them from those unique, life affecting experiences each kid needs to become a unique, contributing human being.

I was a student of Aldo van Eyck, arguably the architect most associated, of the 20th Century, with studies of the child in the city. It was our third year project with him—to design something common to the city, in a manner open to the wisdom of the child--to design something safe but still outside a child’s usual experience. When it came to the idea of the child-in-the-city, Van Eyck was the master architect. Look him up.

But my story is immense and itself unique, There was a wooded glade near the edge of the city. There, I discovered the presence of a sustaining structure, hidden under the visible surface of things, that gives order to all things.

Then, on a dare, I jumped down a deep black hole in the earth. There, in a wondrous cave, I survived to discover the in-between, where lovely light washed away the darkness.

In my father’s linotype machine, so heavy a moving apparatus it was supported on it’s own super-structure, I discovered both the constructive potential, and destructive power of the machine.

Then, one day, a sweet Summer Saturday between 6th and 7th grades, I rode my bike from South to North, 14 miles through the City. From my dear German/Catholic Carondelet, through the Greek neighborhood still littered from its wonderful Friday night yard parties and line-dances in the streets, around the ball diamond on the “Hill” (the heart of the Italian neighborhood where I could always join in a game when there was none at Mulanphy’s Lot, near home) then through the friendly Mill Creek area where pretty black, scantily clad women and smiling men waved to me with familiar memories of my past passings.

From there I headed through Downtown to the Old Cathedral, then North following the visible Mississippi to the Ionic Water Tower in the middle of the Irish neighborhood—the only place in years of bike rides I got beat up. But by now, the kids whom punched me were old buddies looked forward to greeting me. Such is the City.

They had shown me a beautiful Cemetery on the edge of the bluff overlooking the River. In it was a handsome sandstone, domed tomb. Its entry porch was well shaded and always cool on sultry St. Louis, Saturday’s. On it’s steps I often studied and discovered the power of the Book. There they were, The Glade, the Cave, the Machine and the Book, all given me by the City I had courage to explore.

At the end of my studies on the steps, I walked to where I could stand and see to as far my eyes could see over the great river. The essence of continuity was more evident, there, next to the Wainwright corpses, on the steps of the tomb Louis Sullivan designed for them, than in any classroom or laboratory. So on six summer Saturdays I taught myself the calculus.

 

Contribution of Open Spaces to Quality of Life & Urban Sustainability: an Example from Ankara, Turkey

Bahar Gedikli, Ankara, TURKEY 

An open space can be defined as an unbuilt land within the city which provides environmental, social, and economic benefits to communities. It can sometimes be a green space like parks and gardens, play areas, sports facilities and green corridors; or a civic space like pedestrian streets, sports facilities and promenades. Among its environmental services, there are air and water purification, wind and noise filtering, microclimate stabilization. As far as its health service are concerned, researches prove that it reduces stress, rejuvenates people, and provides peacefulness. There is a positive correlation between the use of park and good health—both mentally and physically. The social services of an open space are encouragement of the use of outdoor spaces, and increase of social integration and interaction among neighbours. Finally, its economic services include air purification by trees that reduces costs of pollution prevention; promotion of city as a tourist destination; and increase of property values (Chiesura, A. 2004). This study specifically deals with the social benefits an open space provides, and illustrates an example from Ankara, Turkey. Temporary festivals/activities organized at open spaces are among the social benefits that open spaces provide: The study aims at displaying how a neighborhood public space can improve the urban quality of life when used as a festival place. It elaborately discusses the motives behind the festival organization, the actors involved, the elements of the public space that help using it as a festival area; and the outcomes achieved regarding the urban quality of life. 

Valence of Urban Public Spaces: An Inquiry to Child-Friendly Neighborhoods

Felia Srinaga, Tangerang, INDONESIA

Childhood is the time to develop. Children grow rapidly: their cognitive, affective and their psychomotor. Since the beginning of adolescence (11 years old), children in Jakarta full of enthusiasm start to explore individually or with their peer group in urban public places. They get parent’s permit to go to public places or even go to school close to their neighborhoods without adult’s companion.

In Jakarta, children live in three types of neighborhood. They live in urban kampong, urban neighborhood and in real estate. Their urban public places; such as plazas and parks are designed according to adult’s or family’s (with kid’s) need and adult criteria. Adolescent in Jakarta prefer to go to mall or play along alleys or spaces between buildings.

This paper is conducted to identify the valence of urban public space of children and adolescent communities. These identifications areimportant to understand the trend of children in using urban public space. Many positive functions of urban public space such as a place for social interaction, leisure, recreation and cognitive development have not been utilized optimally to provide child-friendly neighborhoods and to increase the quality of their life.

By studying valences of urban public space of children in Jakara and how they use it, we can predict their preferences and motivation to go to there. Knowing this valences can increase the utilization of the urban space and finally can create child-friendly neighborhoods and healthy environment. This valences are realized in many activities they do. This paper also proposes some recommendations to create child-friendly neighborhood’s public places.

Place Making – “My Mum said I have to run around and stuff…”

Elena Kalnin, Victoria, AUSTRALIA 

People make space public. A 
beautiful but empty place is 
not a public space. Whereas 
an impromptu game of 
cricket in a gritty and little 
used laneway makes for an 
example of urban theatre 
and brings into being true 
public space. 
Footscray is old inner city 
suburb of Melbourne located 
on the Maribyrnong River. In 
2009 Footscray celebrated 
its 150th year. Historically 
this was a place for wharves 
and waterfront industries. 
Settled by consecutive 
waves of migration, these 
continue to determine the 
flavour and language of the 
street. Today, Footscray is a 
multi cultural place, highly 
decorative though not 
particularly refined. The 
streetscape is enchanting in 
a hard working way.
 Central Footscray has been 
selected by the Victorian 
government as one of the 
key locations for 
intensification of use to 
achieve the longer term 
planning goal of 5 million 
people by 2030. This policy 
also funds improvements to 
the urban realm, including a 
major upgrade of the train 
station.
 Recently a range of place 
making activities has been 
carried out to demonstrate 
the capacity of redesigned 
spaces and to seed 
community development. 
These have included urban 
orienteering, Tai Chi and 
Parkour classes, street 
cricket and themed city 
walks. Expenditure on these 
events was minimal in 
relation to capital project 
costs and the achievements 
are wide reaching 
addressing issues of health 
and well being and 
improving perceptions of 
safety. 

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