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Children in the City: A Case-Based Approach to Participatory Research with Children

Part 2 Dissertation 2013
Fiona Thaddeus
Robert Gordon University | UK
The dissertation stems from the ideology of Louis I Kahn (cited in Lobell 1979, p.44) that “A city is the place of availabilities. It is the place where a small boy, as he walks through it, may see something that will tell him what he wants to do his whole life”; and further builds the argument from global phenomenon of increasing populations; ownership of vehicles; technological advances and rapid growth in the built environment; and various changes that have left a distinct mark on the cities in which we inhabit with economically-driven growth that lacks cultural richness. Reduction of walkable routes and disconnecting experiential spaces has made children unable to naturally and confidently explore the city realm. Thus, the city is depicted as predominantly adult domain, leaving the provision for child-friendly spaces being neglected. It is our obligation to better prepare them for the spaces in which they will inhabit as they are the future of our cities. Their needs should be reflected in the environments which they will be expected to run, live and work in; and further endorsed the writing of Chawla and Malone (2003, p.118): “When it comes to the future, the child of today is the city maker of tomorrow.”

Environments for children within cities are often realized without any consultation of the future stakeholders: children, resulting in negative social effects: ‘divided societies’, ‘sedentary effects’ and ‘urban confinement’. Investigating the impacts that individualization and globalization have on the social construction of children in cities, the dissertation explores, through ethnographic process, how school premise is being interpreted as meaningful place making by children; and further seeks how their own space could be reconstructed using ‘stitching urban vision’ techniques. This includes participatory planning using a real case scenario in light of Kevin Lynch’s ‘Growing up in Cities’. This includes participatory collaborative research with architectural students and school pupils; and engages in redevelopment of an inner city primary and secondary school campus, aiming to establish whether the inclusion of children in participatory planning in formal educational framework could provide new methodologies for improving life of children within city environments.

Fiona Thaddeus

Quazi Zaman
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